Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.02.22
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. LA Times (Los Angeles, CA) - Student sues L.A. City College district over gay-marriage speech
2. The Cornell Daily Sun (Ithaca, NY) - LGBT Students Demand Voice
3. The Daily Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia, PA) - LGBT group protests policy
4. Times Leader (Northeast PA) - Disruption-free talk at Misericordia
5. Southern Voice (Atlanta, GA) - Morehouse College under fire again for alleged homophobia
6. Indiana Daily Student (Bloomington, IN) - BLGT conference shatters stereotypes
7. The Michigan Daily (Ann Arbor, MI) - Seeking a post-gender society
8. The Dartmouth (Hanover, NH) – Opinion: Queer Kissin'
9. Daily Skiff (Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX) - Study: Campus lacks support for LGBT community
10. KSL.com (Salt Lake City, UT) - University hosts heated debate over gay rights
11. Daily Trojan (USC, Los Angeles, CA) – Letter to the Editor
12. The Washington Post (Washington, DC) – Work that tiara, Boy! GMU's Choice of Homecoming Queen Sparks Campus Divide
13. The Hoya (Georgetown University, Washington DC) - Gay GWU Student Dismissed From ROTC
14. Southern Voice (Atlanta, GA) – GSU professors defend sexuality research
15. Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL) – University of Illinois at Chicago earns only A on Illinois Safe Schools Alliance's first report card ranking colleges on gay and lesbian issues
16. Southern Voice (Atlanta, GA) – College student is first openly gay official in S.C.
17. The Gainesville Sun Gatorsports.com (University of Florida, Gainesville, FL) - Students march against amendment
1. LA Times, February 16, 2009
202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Student sues L.A. City College district over gay-marriage speech
By Gale Holland
A classroom dispute at Los Angeles City College in the emotional aftermath of Proposition 8 has given rise to a lawsuit testing the balance between 1st Amendment rights and school codes on offensive speech.
Student Jonathan Lopez says his professor called him a "fascist bastard" and refused to let him finish his speech against same-sex marriage during a public speaking class last November, weeks after California voters approved the ban on such unions.
When Lopez tried to find out his mark for the speech, the professor, John Matteson, allegedly told him to "ask God what your grade is," the suit says.
Lopez also said the teacher threatened to have him expelled when he complained to higher-ups.
In addition to financial damages, the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks to strike down a sexual harassment code barring students from uttering "offensive" statements.
Jean-Paul Jassy, a 1st Amendment lawyer in Los Angeles, said a number of cases have explored the tension between offensive speech and the expression of religious views. Often, he said, the decision depends on the specifics of the situation.
"Free speech really thrives when people are going back and forth, disagreeing sometimes and sometimes finding things each other says offensive, but there are limits, particularly in a school setting," Jassy said after reviewing the lawsuit.
Lopez, a Los Angeles resident working toward an associate of arts degree, is described in the suit as a Christian who considers it a religious duty to share his beliefs, particularly with other students. He declined to comment. Matteson could not be reached.
Lopez is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and co-founded by evangelical leader James Dobson of Focus on the Family. The group also advised proponents of Proposition 8 and sued, unsuccessfully, to stop the release of the names and addresses of donors, who said they had been harassed during the weeks of demonstrations that followed the measure's passage.
Alliance staff counsel David J. Hacker said Lopez was a victim of religious discrimination.
"He was expressing his faith during an open-ended assignment, but when the professor disagreed with some minor things he mentioned, the professor shut him down," Hacker said. "Basically, colleges and universities should give Christian students the same rights to free expression as other students."
Hacker said Alliance filed a similar suit in 2006 against Missouri State University over the school's attempt to discipline a Christian social-work student who refused to support adoptions by same-sex couples. The college settled the suit by, among other things, ordering an external review of the social-work program, Hacker said.
The Los Angeles Community College District's offices were closed Friday for the Presidents Day holiday, and the general counsel, Camille A. Goulet, could not be reached. But in a letter to Alliance, the district said it deemed Lopez's complaint "extremely serious in nature" and had launched a private disciplinary process.
In the letter, Dean Allison Jones also said that two students had been "deeply offended" by Lopez's address, one of whom stated that "this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom."
Hacker said the district's response was inadequate.
"What they didn't do was ensure this wouldn't happen to other students," he said. "The dean accused Jonathan of offending other students."
The suit names the Los Angeles Community College District, which operates nine campuses including L.A. City College; its board of trustees; Matteson; and various administrators. Lopez is asking for a jury trial.
2. The Cornell Sun, February 16, 2009
139 West State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
LGBT Students Demand Voice
By Alex Berg
The economic downturn has hurt all facets of the University, especially those parts of the community that were often overlooked before any economic crisis.
Cornell's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning community has gone without a permanent director or an office manager of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Resource Center (LGBTQ RC) since the summer, and without an assistant dean of Students/Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Outreach (LGBTQ) for a year and a half.
"As a community, our members are disproportionately more likely to be homeless, lack family support at home (both financial and emotional), and are disproportionately more likely to abuse substances and be prone to suicide than non-LGBT peers … These facts are not meant to pathologize or degrade our community — but they are meant to make the obvious point that we need administrative support," Ashley McGovern '09, Courtney Finerty '09, Aly Blum '09, Olivia Tai '10 and Jen Inloes '09, LGBT organization student leaders, stated in a joint statement.
The LGBT RC and the Assistant Dean of Students/LGBTQ Outreach both fall under the Dean of Students Office, but the Assistant Dean of Students/LBGTQ Outreach is housed in the Office of Student Support (OSS).
The LGBT community currently relies on Joey Notaro '08, LGBT RC interim coordinator, to fulfill the duties of the entire department, and on student efforts for further support.
"[Staffing] should be a top priority — we're always the first to get cut," Notaro said. "In general we're not gettting the type of support we need in booming economies. President Skorton mentioned it is times like these that things like the humanities can be cut but he hasn't made a statement about diversity services for marginalized faculty, staff and students."
Since the LGBT RC permanent positions have been vacant since last summer, student staff members ran the center alone prior to Notaro, who was hired in October, according to the joint statement.
According to the joint statement, the LGBT RC requires permanent staff for administrative tasks, a director to go to meetings and training programs and an office manager to keep the center open daily. The Assistant Dean of Students/LGBTQ Outreach's function is to initiate and organize programming for Haven, the LGBTQ Student Union, and its eight constituent organizations and all other LGBTQ students. The Assistant Dean vacancy was recently posted and a hiring committee, consisting of administrators and students, was formed.
Student programming and community support have been impacted significantly since these positions became vacant. Without administrative support, students are forced to take on the responsibilities of the staff members. Before Notaro was hired, 75 percent of the fall programming for new and returning students was cancelled.
"It's just such a difficult time ... Those positions are definitely needed. First and foremost we need those resources ... The Resource Center provides support not just to students but also to faculty and staff. The students must have a safe place to go," said Amy Sindone, program assistant, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies.
McGovern stated all of the LGBTQ community's demands. They include that the LGBT RC remain open under all circumstances; that the LGBT RC Director, Office Manager and Assistant Dean of LGBT Affairs remain separate positions, are posted by the end of the year and that no official hiring occur while students are not on campus; that the Assistant Dean of Students/LGBTQ Outreach and Assistant Dean of LGBT Affairs report to the LGBT RC; that there will be a forum between the Cornell and Ithaca LGBTQ community and Cornell administrators; and that the LGBT RC will not lose any funding as a result of the fulfillment of these demands.
Due to the impact of the administrative vacancies and student burnout, the LGBT community held two at-large meetings these past two Thursdays to outline the community's demands and make a coalition with other student groups, staff and faculty. Kent Hubbell '67, dean of students, attended the most recent meeting.
Tai explained that the purpose of the meeting is to work with, and not against, University administrators.
"Those who attended the meeting do not seek to antagonize the administration, but hope to work with the administration," Tai said.
Although the University faces budget cuts across the board, Hubbell pledged to try his best to fight for the LGBT community.
"I'm certainly sympathetic to [the community's] needs. I will do my best to support their demands … I have to say that we are really in a tough financial place, so we may not be able to accommodate their demands, [but] I do not think that we will demure from the effort," Hubbell said.
Although hiring new staff may be difficult in the current economy, drawing from current staff and faculty internally could be an option, according to Hubbell.
"The reality is that there are going to be layoffs here on campus and it is a better idea to pull from our internal resources," Sindone said.
Though the financial crisis makes hiring new staff challenging, the Assistant Dean of Students/LGBTQ Outreach was not filled long before the economic crisis.
"We have gotten sort of used to the idea that it is this difficult to maintain a community and that these hardships as a student are permanent … With a student advisor, I envision some who can serve as a core," Tai said.
McGovern, Finerty, Blum, Tai and Inloes wrote that they hope to work with the administration through open forums and will distribute an online petition that outlines their demands. Next week, they will present the petitions in an open forum that will culminate in a direct action if support is not evident.
The lack of LGBT funding is part of a wider university issue that requires "redistributive justice" for "all academic and nonacademic programs for inclusion of marginalized people at Cornell University," Notaro said.
Annie Bass '12, a member of Ga'avah, a Jewish LGBT organization under Haven ,understand the constraints that the University faces but believes that her organization's demands are reasonable.
"I would say the administration wants to do what they can for the community within the bounds of what they see are reasonable efforts to put forth … We're asking for advocates."
3. The Daily Pennsylvanian, February 16, 2009
4015 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104
LGBT group protests policy
By Abby Johnston
A Lambda Law protest of the national "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy last Thursday raised recurring questions of the presence of military recruiters and the Reserve Officer Training Corps on campus.
The protest was held to voice dissent against the policy and to show support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community while the Judge Advocate General Corps' military recruiters conducted interviews on campus.
"The military, even though they do not comply with Penn's anti-discrimination policies, are allowed to recruit," wrote Lambda Law co-chairman and second-year Penn Law student Christopher Howland in an e-mail to raise awareness on the issue. "It is our obligation to express our vigorous dissent."
Howland said later in an interview, "We don't want to hamper the military's recruiting efforts on campus - we simply want to be able to participate."
Bob Schoenberg, director of Penn's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, said one of his primary objections to the military presence on campus, other than discrimination against the LGBT community, is the over-interpretation of the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal funding to institutions that prohibit military presence on campus.
The amendment does not, however, appear to mandate the subsidization or support of a military presence by any university, said Schoenberg, although "the University is basically paying the ROTC to be on campus."
He also said it is difficult to find specifics of the financial arrangements between the University and the Department of Defense, specifically in regards to Hollenbeck Hall, the building which houses Penn's ROTC.
Leo Charney, a spokesman from the Provost's office, wrote in an e-mail that the "modest costs associated with the program" are required to prevent restricting of the military's operations and access to students, in compliance with federal guidelines.
"Providing no support of any kind to the ROTC would 'restrict its operations' and 'impede access to students (and vice versa),'" he wrote, "discriminating against ROTC compared to other departments and organizations, which is what the University must not do."
Schoenberg disagreed that Penn needs to provide financial support for the ROTC.
"It's about opposing the subsidy of an entity that openly discriminates," he said.
Emily Aronson, a spokeswoman from Princeton University, wrote in an e-mail that Princeton similarly provides "space and secretarial support" for its Army and Air Force ROTC units.
"While ROTC's programs are inconsistent with some of the University's policies, Army ROTC operates on Princeton's campus in recognition of the importance of the program for the country and for some of our students," she wrote.
Other Ivy League universities could not be reached for comment.
4. Times Leader, February 18, 2009
15 N. Main Street Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711
Disruption-free talk at Misericordia
By Andrew M. Seder
DALLAS TWP. – With a police officer keeping an eye over a standing-room-only crowd at the McGowan Room of Misericordia University's Bevevino Library, lecturer Keith Boykin spoke about the struggle for gay rights and acceptance in America.
The one-hour discussion took place a day after the Diocese of Scranton issued a statement chiding the Catholic college for inviting to the podium someone whose message is "disturbingly opposed to Catholic moral teaching."
There was some concern from the university that protesters would be drawn to the event, and campus security and the township police were noticeable at the library, but there was no disruption or protest.
Those in attendance Tuesday sat intently as Boykin, discussed the struggles of gays and lesbians to gain acceptance in the United States. He said the approval of Proposition 8 in California in November, a referendum that successfully sought to ban same-sex marriages in the most-populous state in the union, was a blow to those efforts but wouldn't deter future same-sex marriage legislation from being backed.
Though Boykin didn't address the diocesan statements during his public comments, after the discussion, the 43-year-old Harvard Law School graduate took a few minutes to tackle, or side-step, the controversy.
"I don't really have any strong thoughts about it one way or the other," Boykin said. "I'm here to be a part of a discussion on campus with people who are here to debate and discuss ideas about where we move as a country. I think that's what a university is supposed to do."
Ashley Tassone, a graduate student from Pottsville, and a Catholic, said the bishop had a right to say what he did, but she also backs the school's right to "support everybody's views" by hosting the discussion.
Dr. Linda Trompetter, director of the college's Diversity Institute, noted that Boykin has now visited the campus three times. Boykin said this was the first time he's met with controversy from a local bishop, here or at any campus he's visited. But he said he wasn't going to let it deter him from getting his message out.
"I'm not terribly concerned about it," Boykin said. "He (Bishop Joseph Martino) has his job to do and I have my job to do. I'm happy I'm able to be part of a conversation here."
The appearance was never in doubt, though it drew a lot of added attention thanks to Martino.
The university issued a release Monday, and stood by it Tuesday, which read in part: "Misericordia University is committed deeply to its Catholic mission. Inseparable from that mission is our identity as an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely."
5. Southern Voice, February 17, 2009
1075 Zonolite Road, Suite 1-D, Atlanta, GA 30306
Morehouse College under fire again for alleged homophobia
By Dyana Bagby
A Morehouse College student newspaper column titled "Is Gay the Way?" has caused a stir in Atlanta as well as the national blogosphere, with many gay and transgender activists accusing the writer of being homophobic. The opinion article, published Feb. 16 in The Maroon Tiger, questioned masculine norms at the all-male historically black college.
Gerren Gaynor, who wrote the column and serves as the paper's associate opinions editor, told Southern Voice he believes his message has been misunderstood.
"In no way was my article an anti-gay piece," said Gaynor, a sophomore English major.
"This article was exclusive about the way in which it affects the campus of Morehouse College and no other institution, not even the United States government … While I do agree that I went about my topic the wrong way — and please be advised that this was an article done over night for a weekly college publication — it is completely wrong to disregard the feelings of other students on campus, gay and straight, because every homosexual is not comfortable with seeing a man with feminine qualities," he said. "Nowhere in my article do I attack gays. The article is strictly a critique on gender norms."
In his column, Gaynor states, "It's not so much that 'straight' men of Morehouse are uncomfortable with the gay lifestyle, but more so because that the lifestyle is constantly and robustly thrown in their faces. Does being a gay man include adopting the traits of a woman? Because if that's the case, there's a more fitting school, and it's not an all-male institution.
"Over the years, despite social divergence on campus, the Morehouse community has done its share to both accept and adjust to the growing homosexual population. But don't you think this has gone too far? A boy with a pocket book is far," Gaynor wrote. "I'm all for being who you are. If you like women, go on and date women. If you like men, be my guest and date men. But if you are born a man, you should be just that — a man. If I have to look twice to tell if I'm looking at a man or woman on an all male campus, then something is tragically wrong …
"I'm not saying that having gay students at this institution damages the image of Morehouse, but as the only all male African American liberal arts college in America, we have a certain image to uphold and a man with hair weave just isn't it."
When Michael Brewer, a gay man who graduated from Morehouse, first read the column, he said he had an almost comical reaction to it.
"I was taken aback in a laughable way," Brewer said. "I thought we had come past these arguments. The author reiterated points that had been made before and disproved."
Brewer said Gaynor's opinions likely come from ignorance as well as a misunderstanding of the mission of Morehouse itself.
Brewer, who graduated with a degree in political science in 2008, remains a vocal gay rights activist and was the gay speaker at this year's official Martin Luther King Jr. march in Atlanta.
"The piece doesn't properly represent Morehouse, but that voice and group should be honored," Brewer said. "But the opposing voices — those are just as significant. I have a lot of love and respect for my Morehouse brothers, but I obviously disagree with the author and a lot of his claims."
Morehouse has had a controversial past with gay issues, most significantly in 2002 when student Aaron Price attacked fellow student Gregory Love with a baseball bat in a dorm shower because he allegedly thought Love was gay and looking at him inappropriately.
Last year, however, Soulforce, a religious-based gay organization, visited the campus of Morehouse to dialogue with students about gay issues. And Brewer, along with the university's Safe Space program, introduced last year the "No More 'No Homo' Initiative," a weeklong campaign to eradicate one of the most commonly used epithets gay students at Morehouse face.
"Morehouse has a legacy of growth on these issues," Brewer said.
But Brewer also defended Gaynor, saying he had the right to express himself and not be bombarded with emails from angry gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and activists.
"He's been attacked from the blogosphere and the queer community and I don't feel like that's appropriate," Brewer said. "[Gaynor] is on the arc of learning. In the spirit of progress, I feel it's my duty to provide … a loving challenge."
Gaynor said he understands some people may be angry at what he wrote, but he also believes everyone has the right to speak what's on their mind.
"No matter my views, I respect everyone and that's all that matters — something that can't be taught in any institution of higher learning. I'm sure many of these individuals would be surprised to know that I have homosexual friends and I'm quite comfortable with their sexuality," he said. "Sexuality was not the issue at hand, and many failed to realize that, but people will read what they want to see."
6. Indiana Daily Student, February 17, 2009
940 E. 7th Street, 120 Ernie Pyle Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405-7108
BLGT conference shatters stereotypes
By Maryjane Slaby
After a weekend filled with workshops, speakers and entertainment, Julia Napolitano, one of two chairpersons for the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, sat down at her computer to find her inbox filled with messages of congratulations on a job well-done and praise for IU.
Several students from other schools said they wished their school had as many resources and would be more like IU, Napolitano said.
The Midwest BLGTACC was put on this past weekend on IU's campus. Many registered before the conference, and about 50 to 100 people registered on the first day. More than 1,500 people attended the conference.
IU is fortunate to have an understanding of BLGT issues, said Douglas Bauder from the GLBT Student Support Services office.
Bauder added that each school has something unique that makes it stand out, and IU has influence from several individuals such as Alfred Kinsey and Herman B Wells, who made BLGT issues prominent.
"I just keep coming to the conclusion that labels don't work," Napolitano said. She added that the differences in the people who attended the conference reminded her how diverse the world is.
Bethany Lister, publicity chairperson for the conference, said she attended a workshop about homosexual representation in video games. Although she said she has heard of many stereotypes of gay and lesbians, she had never heard of gay and lesbian stereotypes in video games.
Lister said it was fascinating to have stereotypes slashed and added it is really healthy, especially for kids who see gay and lesbian stereotypes reinforced on TV.
"Stereotypes don't work," Lister said. "People are more complex."
Bauder led a workshop with 30 students to compare how BLGT harassment is dealt with at IU and other universities. IU has a unique approach to harassment because a team helps students report, plan and create an educational program to combat harassment.
With this approach, the victim has a lot more power than when only one person addresses harassment, Bauder said.
After the workshop, several students told Bauder they appreciated the opening remarks of IU Provost Karen Hanson and Dean of Students Dick McKaig and that BLGT support from the faculty was obvious.
Bauder said he was proud of IU and the acceptance in Bloomington.
Lister agreed and said the Bloomington community welcomed conference participants.
Napolitano said she was surprised to see hundreds of volunteers she had never met before show up to help with the conference. She added that IU students who hosted students from other universities for the conference enjoyed having guests and made friends that they will see at the next conference in Madison, Wis., in 2010.
Napolitano said the conference was a whirlwind of activity and that it was rewarding to see the conference participants flood campus and know that she helped make it happen.
"We really can do things to make this world better, even beyond BLGT issues," Napolitano said.
Her goal was for a safe, fun and informative weekend, and that's what happened, she said.
Bauder said the planning committee will meet to go over the participants' evaluations and see what they can do better at IU.
"I feel privileged to work with these students on the planning committee," Bauder said. "They will do great things."
7. The Michigan Daily, February 17, 2009
Ann Arbor, MI
Seeking a post-gender society
By Kristen Steagall
There is a story often read in woman's studies programs called "X: A Fabulous Child's Story" by Lois Gould. In it, a child named X is raised in a gender-neutral household. Neither X nor anybody else is privy to X's biological sex and X is never assigned a gender. The child's parents buy Barbie dolls and GI Joes, ballet slippers and toy fire trucks. X is allowed to grow up and develop interests independent of what society expects of a female or male child, and in the process, inspires other children to shed their confining gender roles.
While this method of raising a child is far from the norm, LSA senior Cayden Mak sees the value in challenging our society's assumptions about how gender is constructed.
Mak is part of a small and often underrepresented group of transgender students on campus. Transgender, as described by the Spectrum Center, is "having a gender identity or expression that doesn't fit neatly into the 'male' or 'female' boxes." It is gender expression that transcends the societal binary of "man" and "woman" in terms of appearance and behavior.
A female by birth who self-identifies as post-gender, Mak said that he identified more as a boy while growing up than as a girl. He, much like child X, was allowed to play with whichever toys he liked and pursue school subjects and sports that attracted him, even when they were "independent of common patterns seen in the gender roles of little girls." When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would reply "a priest." As Mak explains, he grew up in an environment that allowed him to be oblivious of the limitations society would place on him later.
Not all transgender people realize their true gender at such a young age. Charlie, who asked that his full name not be used for privacy reasons, is a University employee who was born a female but prefers to identify as a man. Unlike Mak, Charlie did not fully assume a masculine identity until well into his undergraduate career here at the University.
"I grew up with a very biological viewpoint of what a man and a woman is," Charlie said. "I was a tomboy but still very feminine because that was what was expected of me."
Some psychologists have a name for Charlie and Mak's experience: Gender Identity Disorder. According to Psychology Today, it is characterized by "strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one's own assigned sex." The onset of these feelings usually occurs between the ages of two and four years old, and the feelings often disappear around the age of puberty. Whether or not the feelings change because of social pressures or because the children simply outgrow them was not discerned in the article.
Research conducted on transgender experiences is inconclusive. It's unknown how many children and adults identify with the opposite gender, and for many years, research on the subject focused mainly on people transitioning from female to male while those transitioning the other way were neglected. A study in Psychology Today indicated that "roughly 1 per 30,000 adult males and 1 per 100,000 adult females seek sex-reassignment surgery."
But by placing a label such as "Gender Identity Disorder" on those who choose to define themselves outside of conventional gender identities, society simply continues to perpetuate the confining nature of those roles. According to a gender philosophy supported by Mak, we should all strive to see beyond these blue and pink color lines, beyond the tutus and the footballs, and assume post-gender identities. Mak chooses not only to see beyond gender roles but also live beyond them, defining for himself what gender means.
"The way I look at my own gender is that I am post-gender," Mak said. "I think of myself as sort of a synthesis of various gender stereotypes and roles."
The idea of creating gender-neutral environments in which one can create one's own gender identity is a recurrent theme in literature and resources provided by the Spectrum Center. In a DVD titled "It's Who You Are," students explain that the greatest challenge to discovering your personal gender identity is that others assign it to you before you have a chance to declare it for yourself. People are constantly judging you on how masculine or feminine you look. The University students in the video describe how gender should be viewed: "It's not about how or where you go to the bathroom" but rather "how you see yourself inside and out."
But in a world that is not quite ready to renounce established gender identities and roles, transgender students face challenges every day to their gender philosophies, such as that unavoidable dilemma of which bathroom to use.
The answer to that question is different for every transgender student. Mak, who feels comfortable passing in physical appearance as a man, uses the men's bathrooms on campus. But Charlie struggles with that idea every day. On days that he feels confident that he effectively passes as a male, he uses the men's bathroom. On other days, when he feels that people will perceive him as a "very butch woman", he uses the women's. It is an issue that could be easily solved with the presence of a unisex bathroom. But for Charlie, whose job at the University has him visiting different campus buildings every day, locating a unisex bathroom is usually not an option.
For all its relative openness, the University's campus reflects the view that gender is a black-and-white binary. Everything from on-campus housing to student questionnaires unconsciously balk at any shade of grey, which makes life as a transgender student difficult.
"Gender is like the air we breathe," said Gabriel Javier, senior assistant director at the Spectrum Center. "We do not notice it in our everyday lives until someone points it out." But in the everyday lives of students, it is constantly being pointed out in the way we choose to dress, the bathrooms we use, the dorm hall we live in and the way our peers treat us.
The University continues to try and meet the needs of transgender students and those who are in the process of transitioning. There is a special policy on gender-neutral housing which tries to work with students on a case-by-case basis to provide adequate housing, whether that is a single or double room with a private bathroom attached or a unisex bathroom nearby. But students may be denied these options due to a lack of availability, which means they will simply be assigned to a room based on birth gender. In Mak's own experience, he was not allowed to request gender-neutral housing because he had not undergone any surgical procedures. Instead, he was lucky enough to avoid an uncomfortable living situation by rooming with a female high school friend. For many students, though, this may not be the case.
Another challenge a transgender student may face is in the classroom when a GSI takes attendance or at a sporting event when students show their MCards. Since androgynous names are less common than gender-specific ones, transgender students' birth names don't always fit the gender identities they assume in adulthood. But the University provides assistance in fixing this gender predicament. A policy enacted in April 2008 allows students to choose the name that will be listed on class rosters and printed on their MCards.
Charlie, who has changed his name from a more feminine one, never registered his preferred name with the University, opting instead to simply tell professors and GSIs to use the name Charlie in place of his birth name. Charlie hasn't decided whether he will ever change his name legally — a long, paperwork-intensive process that can cost several hundred dollars in fees. The decision to take Charlie as his everyday name was gradual. It began as a stage name, but felt too right to discard once the show ended.
"Initially, it was part of my drag name," Charlie said. "Drag helped me express myself better physically and gave me a better understanding of my body."
Charlie began dressing in drag as a part of a performance group called Drag King Rebellion, which originated at Michigan State. The group tours the Midwest, lipsynching pop hits and performing choreography in a way that Charlie says integrates "all kinds of identities and experiences into a medley that turns out original, quality and socio-politically conscious performances of gender." In the role of Chapless Charlie, dancing on stage with his friends in the troupe, Charlie is able to express his true sense of self.
If a transgender student is ready to take the surgical plunge and undergo a sex-change operation, the University Health System offers some of the most complete services in the nation with its Comprehensive Gender Services Program. Through this program, transgender students can find general physicians and psychologists who cater specifically to their gender-related needs. Patients have access to services that include medical and mental health care, speech/voice therapy, and hormonal and surgical treatment. But often, patients must also pay for these treatments out of pocket, since many of the procedures are not covered by insurance.
When Mak decided that he was ready to change his sex from female to male, he used Comprehensive Gender Services. He started out with hormone treatments, rubbing a testosterone-laden gel on his upper arm once a day that is released throughout the day to simulate natural production of the hormone. Already, after only four months, Mak said he has a voice that is an octave and a half lower, is able to grow some facial hair, has seen an increase in his muscle mass, is constantly horny and easily angered — all qualities generally associated with increased testosterone. Mak finds an aspect of his transformation humorously ironic: in his pursuit of a post-gender identity, he has "become the stereotypical male."
"It is complicated because a lot of these things are rooted in biology," he said. "We really don't understand it … that even though we are ruled by all these biological factors that doesn't mean that we are just one thing or another because everyone's biological factors are wildly different."
Mak plans on having chest reconstruction in May. He will have a full mastectomy and then have a plastic surgeon reshape the tissue to resemble a more masculine pectoral muscle. His insurance will not cover the procedure, but it may cover the hospital fees.
The University has taken steps in recognizing and accommodating freedom of gender expression. In 2007, it became one of 266 colleges in the United States to include gender identity and gender expression in its non-discrimination clause, according to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
But even with progressive policies, the University cannot ultimately control the way that people on campus view transgender students, some of whom have been the targets of hate crimes and discrimination. Many of them have not come out to their peers out of fear of how the people around them will respond. Others have not revealed their true sexual identity out of fear of losing their jobs.
Charlie and Mak have both experienced discrimination on the Michigan campus. Mak has been accosted on the street walking home at night and last winter, he was reproached for the bandages he uses to make his chest appear flatter when he went to the emergency room of University Hospital for minor injuries he received in a car crash.
In the words of Javier, "there is always more to be done" despite all the policies the University has adopted to accommodate transgender students. There could be more unisex bathrooms offered on campus, and the forms the University requires students and employees to fill out could include a blank space after gender that would allow people to fill out a true description of their gender expression if it falls outside the male and female dichotomy.
The University of Michigan Gay and Lesbian Association offers two $1,000 scholarships every year to students who demonstrate a commitment to gender and sexual orientation on campus. But Mak hopes to help establish the first scholarship at the University specifically geared toward transgender students.
When addressing a subject so closely tied to our self-perceptions and the perceptions others hold of us, anger and misunderstandings are common. Gender is an issue that is constantly discussed in our society, whether it be in politics where pundits argue if Hilary Clinton should wear pantsuits, in a clothing store where men discuss whether or not they should wear pink or in academia, where there is an entire department devoted to the study of women.
The discussion that transgender students put forth is a continuation of the greater gender dialogue, but one of a different flavor. A discussion on how we can better fulfill gender stereotypes becomes a discussion of how perceptions of gender can better suit our individual wants, needs and desires. But with progressive policy making and transgender activists, the University might see the day when it has achieved a truly "post-gender" campus.
8. The Dartmouth, February 18, 2009
6175 Robinson Hall, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755
Opinion: Queer Kissin'
By Kevin Niparko
Last Friday the Cornell social group Direct Action to Stop Heterosexism sponsored a unique pre-Valentine's Day protest: a homosexual kiss-in. Beneath a banner that read "Queer Kissin'" students of the same sex publicly kissed on Cornell's Ho Plaza. The protest was an attempt to increase the visibility of a phenomenon that I had never heard of before: heteronormativity.
Heteronormativity, according to The Cornell Daily Sun, is the idea that heterosexuality is the "normal" sexual orientation. It is, in the words of Cornell senior Ashley McGovern, "the normalization of heterosexuality in society." Undergirding this idea is the notion that gender is simply binary — male or female — and that "normal" sexual relations occur between a member of each of these two genders.
Around the world, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allied (LGBTQA) community has worked to undermine common heterosexist and heteronormative attitudes with similar types of showy protests, as well as with more conventional demonstrations. Members of the Dartmouth LGBTQA, for instance, are holding a panel forum on Wednesday night to share their experiences with the greater Dartmouth community. Additional protests, like the Day of Silence, raise awareness of the struggles of the LGBTQA community.
Similar to other LGBTQA efforts, the Cornell kiss-in was an attempt to raise awareness about the realities of alternative sexual preferences. After reading about the kiss-in, I was left with two questions: (1) Is a protest like this respectful of the greater community? and (2) Can something as trivial as a kiss-in have any effect on changing the way people understand the LGBTQA community?
I shared my questions with a friend, and his response perhaps addressed the very heteronormativity the kiss-in meant to publicize.
"I consider myself a pretty tolerant person," he said. "But when I see two guys making out in a frat basement, I have to admit, it kind of freaks me out."
Although I hated to acknowledge it, I absolutely understood what he meant. I grew up in a heteronormative environment. While my school did its best to raise tolerance for alternative sexualities, I graduated without knowing a single openly gay classmate. It is not that being raised in that kind of environment taught me to dislike or judge homosexuals, it just failed to expose me to the plurality of opinions and lifestyles that thrive at places like Cornell and Dartmouth.
While my friend's comment is obviously heterosexist, I think his observation is representative of the double standard our culture holds toward the LGBTQA community. Our culture accepts (and even encourages) men and women to all but make sweet passionate love to one another on a fraternity dance floor, but the idea that two men, two women or a gender-neutral couple might be interested in doing the same thing startles us. Our generation seems to be far more intellectually accepting of different lifestyles and sexualities than our parents', but the moment we actually witness these lifestyles in practice, some of us cringe.
Some might pass off Cornell's kiss-in as a cry for attention or a stunt pulled solely for shock value. I might have been just as quizzical had straight Cornell students decided to swap saliva mid-Ho Plaza. Critics might condemn this protest as disgustingly lascivious — another act of so-called flamboyancy and attention-garnering by the gay community.
But at the same time, I think the shock value some of us find in "Queer Kissin'" says a lot about where we stand as a culture. We may be a relatively tolerant generation — on an intellectual level — but, in practice, we are not nearly as accepting as we claim to be. The Cornell kiss-in encourages us to reevaluate and question the tacit beliefs and prejudices we may not have known we had. By pulling these skeletons out of the closet, I think, we as a society can grow more accepting and understanding of varying opinions and lifestyles.
9. TCU Daily Skiff, February 20, 2009
Box 298050, Fort Worth, Texas 76129
Study: Campus lacks support for LGBT community
By Maricruz Salinas
Representatives of the TCU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community expressed a lack of unity within the gay population in addition to the broader campus, according to a study on the support of LGBT students within the university.
A research project led by sophomore social work major Shelly Newkirk and her mentor Tracy Dietz, associate professor of social work, extensively surveyed five students from the gay community.
The participants, who were kept anonymous, were asked to relay their experiences within the college community. Questions asked ranged from comparing high school experiences to college experiences and their opinion of the level of advocacy and support within campus grounds.
The study, conducted between December 2007 and April 2008, examined the effects on the fear of hate acts, the undertones of heterosexism, the assumption that there is no need for progression in gay rights, and anti-homosexuality in accordance with beliefs based in religion.
All five students exhibited levels of cautiousness and discomfort attributed to the campus atmosphere, according to the report.
According to the research, four out of the five participants said they had experienced at least one instance of harassment on campus, mainly derogatory comments concerning their sexual orientation.
The project clarifies that the small sample size does not accurately represent all of the campus's LGBT community. Individuals not openly gay were not interviewed in the research, the report said.
Newkirk and Dietz concluded the campus lacks a valid support system for LGBT students. Dietz said fear, isolation and the lack of support remain the top issues concerning the LGBT community.
Blade Berkman, junior social work major and former president of the TCU's Gay-Straight Alliance, said the caution not only originates from the fear of coming out on campus but also coming out to family members.
"It's not so much what they'll face here with the students. It's also what they'll face with their parents," Berkman said. "It's a college setting so there's also the possibility of being cut off from your family."
Newkirk said she hopes the study will bring awareness to the growing LGBT community and their quest for equality.
"I feel like at TCU there are a very large number of students who are closeted," she said. "They're either trying to change and not be gay or they just don't feel comfortable enough to come out."
Berkman said he agreed that the atmosphere of the campus directly interferes with student's levels of comfort.
"These people don't have the opportunity to be who they are," he said. "They don't call it 'Texas Closeted University' for nothing."
Corte Gilbert, president of GSA and senior criminal justice and theater major, recently conducted a less-formal survey of more than 100 students online and through the V-Day Campaign's booth at the TCU Info Fair.
Gilbert said students overall would like to see more activity from the GSA regardless of their personal opinion.
"I think students believe there should be fear and non-acceptance, when actually there's not nearly as much homophobia as there used to be," Gilbert said. "I think people base it on past fears that make it harder to see that change happening."
Dietz, future co-advisor to GSA, conducted a similar study about TCU's LGBT community with another student researcher in July 1997. She said she found the progress on campus between the two studies disappointing but the activism of gay students has increased.
"Over the years, (GSA) has really been more visible on campus," Dietz said. "Ten years ago, to my knowledge, there was no movement to get something formalized at a higher level."
Newkirk, who received the approval for the project after she presented the proposal to the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Initiative, used a grant to develop the project.
Since completion of the research project, Newkirk has released a video on YouTube titled "If I Could Speak Freely" that has caught the attention of many, including Chancellor Victor Boschini.
Newkirk will meet with Boschini to discuss a possible resource center for LGBT students, as well as working toward more recognition of the gay community on campus.
Berkman said the stability of the gay awareness movement relies on the university's stance on institutionalizing the office.
The bureaucracy of the situation handicaps the movement toward a more gay-friendly environment, he said.
New GSA officers encourage different levels of activity within the GSA, and solidifying a faculty member as an official officer will sustain the rising activity level of the gay community, he said.
Dietz said that as part of the faculty, she feels a responsibility toward any group that has been oppressed and discriminated against.
"For faculty and staff who've taken time to think about it, they would say we need to do something for this group of students that hasn't been heard - (Students) who may be oppressed on this campus, who don't feel safe in certain settings and who are in classrooms and hear hate language against their group," Dietz said.
10. KSL.com, February 19, 2009
55 North 300 West, Broadcast House, PO Box 1160, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
University hosts heated debate over gay rights
By Amanda Butterfield
The University of Utah hosted a spirited debate Thursday night between Equality Utah and the Sutherland Institute. The two groups have very differing opinions on the issue at hand: gay rights and the Common Ground Initiative.
Four members from each group debated their side on the legislative bills included in the Common Ground Initiative. Those bills were meant to protect and give gays rights regarding employment, medical needs and housing, but all were defeated in this year's legislative session.
"The bills in the Common Ground Initiative are not about giving anybody special rights. They're about taking care of each other. We all want to protect our families. We all want to keep our jobs," said Will Carlson, of Equality Utah.
The legislation did not state anything about legalizing marriage between homosexuals and/or transgenders, but the Sutherland Group argues that is exactly what these bills add up to.
"Your ideas about marriage and family are an illusion. The very nature of your relationships means that you only act out. You play house as only a dysfunctional household structure can allow," said Paul Mero, CEO of the Sutherland Institute.
"The Sutherland Institute claims to protect sacred ground while contradicting Utah's religious leaders," Carlson said.
Each team was given 10 minutes of opening remarks, then each was allowed to ask and answer questions. The public was also invited to ask questions.
Even though the legislature has struck down every bill under the Common Ground Initiative, the purpose of this debate was to bring the discussion to the people.
"For the public to be in the audience, to have the opportunity to hear their responses, and then hear where exactly that actually stands, rather than reading a quote here or a quote there in the newspaper or on television," explained Jeffery Reynolds, with the Sutherland Institute.
This debate is not over just because the 2009 Legislature has killed all the bills under the Common Ground Initiative. Equality Utah has stated they will continue to fight during the 2010 session.
11. Daily Trojan, February 18, 2009
Los Angeles, CA
Letter to the Editor
By Isaac Ahn
IFC demonstrates discrimination
I would like to share my experiences participating in Spring Rush 2009. On my fifth and final day rushing Alpha Gamma Omega, two AGO brothers confronted me about my sexuality. That is, two AGO brothers confronted, questioned and attacked my sexuality. Although I was honest with them about my being gay, I was made to feel extremely uncomfortable. From these conversations, it became inescapably clear that AGO would not extend a bid to me because I am gay, an instance of blatant homophobia. As a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at USC, I am appalled by the actions of these two AGO members, especially considering USC's national recognition as an LGBT-friendly university. This experience has been an extremely painful one for me, leaving me with real feelings of inadequacy. I have still have not fully recovered from the shock of what I experienced.
Below is a brief description of the incident:
AGO Brother #1 and I were talking about how the bid process works. He asked me about my relationship with God. I told him I learn things every day, among other things. He further questioned me by asking what I learned. He said something about my involvement in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Assembly and how that wouldn't work well with being in AGO. I told him I never was in GLBTA. He asked me if I was gay. I said yes. He asked me how that factored into my relationship with God. I explained how it used to be a struggle and how it isn't anymore. He said that people base their relationship with God on their relationship with other people.
AGO Brother #2 came into the conversation and took me to his room. He closed the door and proceeded to tell me how he struggled with his sexuality since he was a child. He asked me about my relationship with God. I told him what I told AGO Brother #1. He told me that he entered the fraternity a "broken man" and how the fraternity has helped him to improve. He also said that the fraternity is not affirming of homosexuality, because they are Christians and follow the scripture. He also said that since tomorrow is bid night, they want to know how my relationship with God is. He asked me what my thoughts were. I said that I wanted to leave. He wanted to show me out the back door so no one could see me leave but I said no. I grabbed my umbrella from under the couch in the common room where people were "worshipping" and left.
From this incident, I hope the blatant homophobia is acknowledged. In trying to resolve my issue privately with the Interfraternity Council, I wrote to the IFC Judicial Board and met with them twice. I asked them for assistance with the following three things:
- An IFC investigation of this incident coordinated by the IFC Judicial branch.
- AGO leadership must admit their two brothers acted wrongly in this situation, and the organization as a whole should take full responsibility for what happened. In addition, the two men involved must issue a written apology to me noting their discrimination.
- AGO should work with the IFC Judicial branch and Diversity Encouragement Council to institute an intervention strategy to prevent a situation like this from happening again.
After hearing both sides of the story, the executive vice president of Judicial Affairs notified me that they would not help me with my requests. No apology or admission of any wrongdoing was given to me from either the IFC or AGO. He told me that the IFC Judicial Board did not think any discriminatory actions occurred, although they thought the remarks were insensitive. He said I was unsure of how the rush process worked. The only ruling that IFC made was to require the two brothers who approached me to attend Diversity Encouragement Council meetings. He did not give me a formal decision on paper, instead choosing to tell me in person. To add insult to injury, I was told that my case would not be recorded, completely diminishing the gravity of my case.
The day after I received the decision from IFC, an AGO alumnus who is back at USC taking pre-med classes approached me. He waited for me at my workplace to tell me that I would not get the results that I want by going through the administration. He also felt the need to share a Bible verse about mercy and forgiveness with me. While I can't say who sent him, I think it is safe to assume that he came to my workplace to stop me from pursuing my issue further.
With everything that has transpired, I still feel that I deserve the three items I originally requested from the IFC. As a council that regards itself as "one of the most diverse, exciting and well-respected systems in the country," IFC needs to reconsider how homophobia fits into that definition. I am both frustrated and frightened by the ignorance and disrespect that was expressed in dealing with my situation. With all the diversity that exists at USC, why is integration so hard? Bureaucratic systems such as the IFC certainly do not help, and are part of the problem. The IFC and AGO will both say that they are not homophobic and are accepting of the LGBT population on campus, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, during the IFC hearing, an AGO leader told me they have several members who are "dealing" with their homosexuality. What does that even mean? My experience is only one of many homophobic incidents I've heard of in fraternities on campus. Despite what anyone might say, or any exceptions to the rule, there is a palpable anti-gay attitude within the IFC, evident especially in the fact that they condoned what happened to me.
My fellow Trojans, I shared my experience and anger to hopefully revitalize you to speak up whenever you see something discriminatory happen. I am currently working with USG Diversity Affairs to settle my issue, and I will not give up until I get what I deserve.
We, as the LGBT and ally population on campus, need to work together to ensure that no one is constrained in what they can achieve at USC.
Junior, creative writing
12. The Washington Post, February 20, 2009
1150 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20071
Work that tiara, Boy! GMU's Choice of Homecoming Queen Sparks Campus Divide
By Annie Gowen
Spend time with George Mason University senior Ryan Allen and it's clear why he's a Big Man on Campus. He wears size 12 pumps.
Allen is now -- as of halftime at Saturday's sold-out basketball game against Northeastern at the Patriot Center -- the school's homecoming queen. He received more votes than the two women who vied for the crown.
Allen, who is gay and performs as a popular drag queen at local clubs, assumed the title of Ms. Mason. He was wearing a green-and-gold bow, sewn for him by the theater department costume's shop, that was visible even from the cheap seats, a sequined top, a black skirt and heels. Ricky Malebranche, a junior from Woodbridge, was named Mr. Mason.
Beyond the joyful tears and tiara, Allen's election exposed conflicting cultural currents at the sprawling campus in Fairfax County. Many see it as an expression of inclusiveness at a place where about one-third of the 30,000 students are minority. But others say it is an embarrassment at an inopportune time when Mason is trying to revamp its image from commuter school to distinguished institution of higher learning.
Officially, the university is "very comfortable with it. We're fine," spokesman Daniel Walsch said. The school does not require participants in the Mr. and Ms. Mason pageant to compete along precise gender lines, he said.
"It was just for fun," Allen, 22, said over coffee at the Johnson Center, where he was congratulated by classmates with hugs and squeals. "In the larger scheme of things, winning says so much about the university. We're one of the most diverse campuses in the country, and . . . we celebrate that."
The pageant has been a part of homecoming for five years, but it often didn't register with the far-flung student body, of which only 16 percent lives on campus. Students say it was considered the province of pretty blondes and fraternity boys.
"I've never been into homecoming over here. This is the first time I've actually wanted to support someone," said Melissa Benjjani, 21, from Lebanon. "He deserves to be queen. He's already a queen for everybody."
George Mason has attracted greater national attention in recent years as officials worked to recruit first-class academic talent while undergoing a $400 million expansion. Then there was the Patriots' Cinderella trip to the Final Four in the 2006 NCAA men's basketball tournament -- a huge boost for school spirit.
But electing a dude as homecoming queen is not the way to bolster pride, sophomore Grant Bollinger said. Mason was recently named the No. 1 national university to watch by U.S. News & World Report, he said -- it should act like it.
"It's really annoying," said Bollinger, who works as an ambassador for the admissions office. "The game was on TV. Everyone was there. All eyes were on us. And we do something like this? It's just stupid."
Allen said he decided to enter the Ms. Mason contest this year as a joke, a last hurrah for his senior year. Soon he had donned a silver bra and zebra-print pants and was lip-syncing to Britney Spears's "Womanizer" at the qualifying pageant Feb. 9, overseen by Miss Virginia 2009. Competitors included a government and politics major from Chesapeake and a Chi Omega sorority member who told the school newspaper she should win because "I have pride in Mason to the point where my towels are green and gold."
Allen grew up in tiny Goochland, Va., about 30 miles northwest of Richmond, and endured years of taunts from classmates after coming out during his freshman year in high school. When Allen came to Mason in 2005, his world grew wider. His drag alter ego, Reann, began performing at nightclubs including Freddie's Beach Bar in Crystal City and Apex in the District. Over the years, Allen perfected his stagecraft, learning how to apply shading makeup to look more feminine and buying gowns on a student budget from other drag queens. His fame grew as each year he emceed Mason's drag show, held during Pride Week. And with fame, acceptance.
Then came Saturday.
"When they said 'Ms. Mason 2009 is Reann Ballslee,' the crowd went wild," Allen said. "It was one of the best feelings I've felt in a long time. I had so many friends supporting me."
13. The Hoya, February 20, 2009
Gay GWU Student Dismissed From ROTC
By Rich Luchette
A gay George Washington University freshman has found himself at the center of the conflict over the federal "don't ask, don't tell" policy after being dismissed from the school's Navy ROTC program.
Todd Belok gained admission to GWU through its early decision program for the fall 2008 semester. While still a senior in high school, he contacted the GWU NROTC battalion in Washington, D.C. to ask about enrolling. Belok hoped to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served in World War II.
As a gay man, Belok said he understood how difficult it could be to conceal his homosexuality while serving in the armed forces.
"I had done a report on 'don't ask, don't tell' in 12th grade," he explained in an interview with The Hoya. "I knew what it meant to be gay in the military."
Nonetheless, he planned to keep his sexual orientation under wraps for the time being.
Last fall, however, Belok's boyfriend visited him at GWU and the two attended a fraternity party where other NROTC members saw them together.
"We kissed at the party," he said. "I was surprised when my commanding officer called me about it a few weeks later."
What Belok did not know was that two other midshipmen who had attended the party, GWU freshman Dave Perry and Squad Leader Nick Trimis, a GWU senior, reported his actions to Lt. Kathleen Meeuf, an assistant professor of naval science. Still, Belok said, he expected that the situation would be swept under the rug without much controversy.
Yet, just a month later, he learned that he would either have to withdraw from the NROTC program or face a Performance Review Board. After consulting with Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network attorneys, who advised that he withdraw and re-enter the Navy after college through the Officers Candidates School, Belok chose instead to go in front of the PRB.
In October, the PRB recommended Belok for disenrollment and dismissed him from the battalion in December.
Belok was removed from the NROTC despite a GWU policy which protects students in school-sponsored clubs from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
According to the university's Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities for the 2008 – 2009 school year, "The university will not permit discrimination on grounds of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or identity, or any other illegal basis in any university-recognized area of student life."
Lieutenant Colonel Dan Koprowski, professor of military science and the head of Georgetown's ROTC program, said that Georgetown had not dealt with any similar situations during his tenure.
"I am not aware of any ROTC cadet at Georgetown having been separated from the program under 'don't ask, don't tell.' If it has happened, it was before I arrived in July 2007," he said in an e-mail.
President Bill Clinton (SFS '68) tried unsuccessfully to fulfill a campaign promise to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces. After encountering resistance from congressional and military leaders, he agreed to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a compromise. Congress voted to instate the policy in 1993 and President Clinton signed it into law.
Under this policy, gays and lesbians are allowed to serve in the military, as long as they do not actively engage in homosexual conduct
"Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct," the policy states. "The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender."
Although the military no longer asks prospective soldiers to disclose their sexual orientation under the new policy, it does allow for the dismissal of soldiers who demonstrate a propensity for homosexual conduct.
"Bodily contact between service members of the same sex that a reasonable person would understand to demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts (e.g., hand-holding or kissing in most circumstances) will be sufficient to initiate separation [from the military]," the policy states.
Belok, who received numerous messages of support from other servicemen and women, plans to help push for this change. He is attending the "Freedom to Serve Rally," sponsored by the Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network, which hopes to incite progress in repealing "don't ask, don't tell." He and other supporters of homosexuals in the military will rally on Capitol Hill on March 13.
Despite being dismissed from the NROTC, Belok still hopes to someday serve his country in the military.
"I don't have any resentment against my battalion or the Navy. After all, they just carried out a Defense Department policy," he said. "I cannot rejoin the Navy unless the current policy changes, and I'm focused on lobbying Congress to ensure that happens."
14. Southern Voice, February 20, 2009
1075 Zonolite Road, Suite 1-D, Atlanta, GA 30306
GSU professors defend sexuality research
By Matt Schafer
Three professors from Georgia State University appeared today before the Senate Committee of Higher Education to defend their jobs.
On Feb. 6, state Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock) called out GSU for having experts in oral sex and male prostitution. Dr. Kirk Elifson, Dr. Mindy Stombler and Dr. Donald Reitzes, the chair of GSU's sociology department, appeared before the Senate committee on Feb. 18 to defend their research.
Elifson is GSU's expert on male prostitution. His research dates back to the Vietnam War, where he studied the sexual habits of American servicemen. While 90 percent visited female prostitutes, 10 percent visited male prostitutes, according to his research. In 1991, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention approached Elifson and asked him to investigate the outbreak of HIV and AIDS among gay men.
Stombler's research is based largely in education theory, and she has done an unpublished study on oral sex.
"As a sociologist, I study society and social problems and social phenomena, and any behavior that so many people participate in should not be ignored, especially if it poses a risk to public health," Stombler said. "I know the topic is controversial, but I know in the past sociologists have shied away from studying topics like domestic violence."
The questioning broke down among party lines with state Sen. John Brown (R-Social Circle) arguing these positions should be eliminated because of the tight budget.
"How do I go back and explain to the 7,500 veterans of this state that we have money to pay for male prostitution experts and oral sex experts, and queer theory?" he asked. "How do I go back and explain to the 7,500 veterans that we have money to pay for these things but not for veteran housing?"
State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) thanked Elifson for his research, and asked about his background.
"Learning about your work with the national security connects the dots and shows how important your work can be," Orrock said.
Sen. Seth Harp (R-Hull), the committee chair, acknowledged his hearing was a reaction to Byrd's comments, but said it was a meaningful use of his committee's time.
"I think hearing what these other folks have said, and realizing that there is legitimate research being done, is very helpful," Harp said.
15. Chicago Tribune, February 21, 2009
435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
University of Illinois at Chicago earns only A on Illinois Safe Schools Alliance's first report card ranking colleges on gay and lesbian issues
By Bonnie Miller Rubin
Colleges and universities don't just give grades; they also receive them. And in the first statewide report card ranking gay and lesbian issues, University of Illinois at Chicago was the only institution to snare an A.
The report card, issued by the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, scrutinized several categories, such as incorporating sexual orientation in school anti-discrimination policies and whether teacher preparation programs include gender identity along with other components of diversity.
UIC earned 90 of 100 points, while 41 of the state's 57 teacher education programs flunked lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning concerns. Many schools received an F because they did not include LGBTQ information on their Web sites, according to the Alliance, which is dedicated to promoting safety and support for LGBTQ youth in Illinois schools.
"While we're excited and proud of our A, the fact that we're the only one concerns us," said Stacey Horn, a professor of education psychology at UIC. "At the same time, we know we have more work to do ... and that being inclusive is an ongoing process."
The full report is available at illinoissafeschools.org.
16. Southern Voice, February 21, 2009
1075 Zonolite Road, Suite 1-D, Atlanta, GA 30306
College student is first openly gay official in S.C.
By Rebecca Armendariz
A 21-year-old college student has come out as the first openly gay elected official in South Carolina.
Nick Shalosky, a political science major at the College of Charleston, discussed his being gay on the national stage for the first time this week after winning a seat last year on the Charleston County District Constituent School Board.
Shalosky, who was open about his sexual orientation during his campaign, came out nationally this week through an opinion piece he wrote for The Bilerico Project about how online social networking tools aided his campaign.
In an interview this week with the Blade, Shalosky said he didn't specifically seek to succeed where congressional candidate Linda Ketner and state assembly candidate Charlie Smith failed to become his state's first openly gay elected official.
"After I found out that I was the first, I kind of felt bad for Linda Ketner and Charlie Smith," he said. "While they were taking the forefront, I kind of snuck in the back door. And here I am."
Shalosky, who is secretary of the South Carolina Stonewall Democrats, said campaign began as an outgrowth of his college studies.
"I'm doing an independent study this semester on internet technology and local campaigns, so I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see how far Facebook could go in a local campaign," Shalosky said.
Two weeks prior to Election Day, Shalosky said he realized no one was running for a particular school board seat. He then began campaigning via Facebook, where he created a group and began inviting friends to spread word of his write-in candidacy.
Shalosky said he was working on other campaigns as part of his duties with Stonewall. But when he was stationed at election headquarters on Nov. 4, he started seeing his name among the returns.
Shalosky said although "almost every person that voted for me misspelled my name," the school board administrator called him just before Thanksgiving to inform him that he won the seat.
"Facebook provided me with an avenue to quickly organize after jumping into the race with only two weeks before Election Day," Shalosky wrote in the Bilerico piece. "Such rapid mobilization might not have been possible only two years ago. But with a Facebook page and a knowledge of online organizing, I secured my winning margin without spending a penny."
Shalosky told the Blade that he was gearing up for a political career before his win. Last year, he became one of the founding board members for the South Carolina Stonewall Democrats. He learned about the organization through a professor, Tom Chorlton, a former executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club, a forerunner organization.
Shalosky, who grew up in Conway, S.C., said he came out during his sophomore year of high school. He said that he didn't experience any bias during his campaign or in the aftermath of his win.
"Most of the people on the [school] board are over 40 and have grown up in Charleston. … I'm already an outsider," he said. "So I haven't been overtly criticized for being gay yet, which is a positive thing."
Shalosky said his duties as a school board member will mostly consist of answering constituent concerns about budget cuts and school closings in the district. Shalosky, who spends about 10 hours each week working on tasks related to the board, said he'll get credit for the work in his independent study class.
17. The Gainesville Sun Gatorsports.com, February 21, 2009
P.O. Box 147147, Gainesville, FL 32614-7147
Students march against amendment
By Tyler Francischine
About 75 University of Florida students, faculty and members of the group Equality is Gainesville's Business marched to Tigert Hall Friday afternoon in opposition to Gainesville Charter Amendment 1.
The charter amendment will come up for a vote in the March 24 city election.
The march started with a short speech in Turlington Plaza and then made its way down Union Road, making a short detour into the Plaza of the Americas.
Garrett Garner, UF campus coordinator for Equality is Gainesville's Business, rallied the crowd against the amendment with repeated shouts of, "How are you going to vote?" to which the crowd responded with a resounding "No!"
Marchers chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho. Amendment 1 has got to go," as members of the University of Florida Police Department rode by on bicycles.
If passed, Charter Amendment 1 would force the city to recast its anti-discrimination ordinance to mirror the Florida civil rights act, which does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Currently the Florida civil rights act protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap and marital status in the areas of employment, housing, credit and public accommodation.
Members of Equality is Gainesville's Business say they're concerned that Charter Amendment 1 will strip both the LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) community and veterans of their current civil rights.
"Charter Amendment 1 would allow discrimination of gays in a workplace or renting an apartment," said Jacob Smith, a freshman political science major and a member of Equality is Gainesville's Business. "This would affect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at UF."
Equality is Gainesville's Business is a political action committee made up of UF students and members of the Gainesville community with the goal of raising awareness about the amendment's potential impact. Garner said his organization's objective is to "get the facts out."
Meantime, others favor the charter amendment.
A.J. Hall, college leader and administrative assistant to Gainesville's Victory Church, said he will vote "yes" on the amendment to avoid potential "negative consequences" of Gainesville's Gender Identity Ordinance of 2008.
Hall said the ordinance's definition of gender identity, especially relating to transgender individuals, is too vague.
Gender identity, as defined by the ordinance, refers to "an inner sense of being a specific gender, or the expression of a gender identity by verbal statement, appearance or mannerisms ... with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth."
"There has to be some kind of better assessment for what constitutes a transgender, something more substantial than a simple verbal affirmation," Hall said.
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