Northwestern Magazine
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Robert Fojtik

A Force for Gay Rights

When Robert Fojtik walked through the doors of an Army recruiting office in Chicago in September, the Chicago police were there to meet him.

“We were expecting to be arrested, but when it finally happened we felt the injustice of the policy,” said Fojtik, a senior from Palos Hills, Ill., who was apprehended for his second attempt to join the military as an open homosexual.

Fojtik, along with members of a gay rights group called Soulforce, went to the recruiting office that morning to peacefully protest the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality in the armed forces.

Fojtik became involved with Soulforce through connections with the Northwestern student organization Rainbow Alliance.

On campus, Fojtik, a Slavic studies major, also co-founded and now edits the Undergraduate Journal of Central and Eastern European Studies. His honors thesis, inspired by his study abroad experience in St. Petersburg, Russia, focuses on “gay identity and linguistics in post-Soviet Russia.”

After graduation Fojtik plans to work with Soulforce on their outreach campaign in Eastern Europe.

“The situation in Eastern Europe varies by country, but overall gays and lesbians are still shunned,” says Fojtik. “In St. Petersburg I came out to my host mother who admitted to me that I was the first gay man she ever met, and to her surprise, I wasn’t even wearing makeup! In the nearly two months that followed, she opened up to the idea of homosexuality and showed an amazing willingness to reevaluate her prejudices. The potential for change on an individual level keeps me going.”

— Caitlin Henning (WCAS07)

Photo by Bill Arsenault