Last week, The Bowdoin Orient published a letter from the student staffs of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) protesting the merge of these two institutions into the Center for Gender and Sexuality. I am entirely in agreement with this viewpoint, but I wanted to add an additional justification in arguing against the merge. The decision to create the Center for Gender and Sexuality is profoundly ignorant of the historical legacy of the experiences of both women and queer students at Bowdoin. Doing so serves to put the issues that women and queer students face and have faced at Bowdoin into the same pot, when the reality is that both of these groups have experienced discrimination in distinct and meaningful ways.

Women were literally excluded from attending Bowdoin until 1969; the College became fully co-ed in 1972. Emily Weyrauch’s recent series on the “Women of ’75” has captured the difficulty of the transition to co-education at Bowdoin: a history that includes inflammatory comments and acts rejecting co-education. The creation of the WRC is directly tied to this history of sexism. In a study of women at Bowdoin conducted by Gender and Women’s Studies 280 in Fall 2011, the students address how the WRC became a place for both inclusion and academic learning. Linda Nelson ’83, one of the founders of both the WRC and the Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance, explained during this study that “Somebody tried to burn it [the WRC] down at one point … we did receive threatening phone calls kind of on a regular basis. Some of us were followed around campus.”

The WRC is a monument to the success of co-education at Bowdoin, but also a continuing reminder of the lack of inclusion women originally faced and continue to face. While today issues of exclusion may not be from the college itself, they can still exist in specific academic departments and social spaces on campus. Taking away the WRC as its own independent entity disregards this history of all women’s struggles at Bowdoin. The removal of the word “women” from the new center is an extra insult to the legacy of women who fought for greater inclusion at Bowdoin and who continue to face such issues on campus today.

Marginalization of queer identities has occurred differently from sexism at Bowdoin, particularly in the erasure of these identities from the College and in its history. In 2012, The Orient published an investigation called “Queer at Bowdoin.” This article details numerous examples of ways that both the Bowdoin administration and community acted to remove evidence of queer identities at Bowdoin. In “the 1950s…a student was expelled for ‘lascivious carriage,’ an anachronistic legal term referring to queer sexual behavior. In the 1970s, faculty members who were not seen cavorting with members of the opposite sex were suspect. And Bowdoin kept mum about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s.” Alfred Kinsey of the Class of 1916, originator of the Kinsey scale, has not received the public recognition that some other of our influential alums have received. Queer identities have historically been quieted at the College, an issue that should not be forgotten or assumed to have been solved today.

The 2012 Orient article further details hate crimes against queer individuals that occurred in the past few years—a concern that is still relevant. A June 2016 New York Times article’s headline reads, “L.G.B.T. People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group”—a finding by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the Times notes as true even before this year’s shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida. It is important to continue the legacy of a center that is specifically designed to help deal with this contemporary reality, in a way that the WRC may not be able to.

Further, combining the centers is ahistorical when looking at approaches to issues of both groups. Both women and queer individuals have historically participated in ways that contributed to the oppression of one another, such as a history of heteronormativity among feminist groups or a history of misogyny among queer men. Both groups also can and have historically been productive allies to each other—and understanding of both women’s issues and queer issues should strive to be as intersectional as possible. But the conflation of the two groups comes at the erasure of these historical differences and precludes an understanding that work needs to be done to make both centers as intersectional as possible. Even if conflation is not the professed goal of the administration, combining the two centers essentially has the same symbolic meaning and should not happen.