Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2010.04.11
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. The Tufts Daily - Tufts’ GAYpril festivities kicked−off yesterday
2. The Daily Targum (Rutgers University) - Gaypril events shower campus with awareness
3. The Daily Targum (Rutgers University) - New facility unites LGBT community
4. The Temple News - QSU officials need to be comprehensive
5. The Reporter (Minnesota State University, Mankato) - LBGT group works toward acceptance
6. Hartford Courant - Photographer of LGBT Athletes To Lecture And Exhibit at Quinnipiac University April 14
7. Onward State - State Speaks: Gay at Penn State
8. AnnArbor.com - University of Michigan's first openly gay student body president ready to get to work
9. Detroit Free Press - Gay student leader elected at U-M seeks activism
10. The Holland Sentinel - Professors join alumni protest over homosexual policy at Hope College
11. The Advocate - Anti-Gay Graffiti Found at Oregon Univ.
12. The University of Idaho Argonaut - Gay and Greek
13. Bay Windows - Historically black colleges and the LGBT community
14. The Durango Herald - Gay Fort Lewis College students ask for club space
1. The Tufts Daily, April 2, 2010
Curtis Hall, Tufts University, 474 Boston Ave., Medford, MA, 02155
Tufts’ GAYpril festivities kicked−off yesterday
By Minyoung Song
The month of April has been rechristened GAYpril in honor of an annual celebration of diversity at Tufts that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Center sponsors in conjunction with the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA).
GAYpril festivities launched yesterday with a lecture featuring activist Wayne Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out, a non−profit organization that seeks to dispel LGBT myths publicized by anti−gay sectors.
Tom Bourdon, director of the LGBT Center, said that Besen has been an influential member of the LGBT community, especially in connecting faith and sexuality.
“While he is often controversial, [Besen] always does a great job talking about how queers and religious communities can work together,” Bourdon said. “His talks are interesting because he always sheds a light on the hypocrisy that exists in regards to people saying that homosexuality is something that could be cured.”
Besen is also the author of “Bashing Back: Wayne Besen on GLBT People, Politics and Culture” (2007).
Other kick−off highlights for GAYpril include the Intercollegiate Dollar Party Dance, LGBT Shabbat Dinner and Ally Appreciation Soul Food Dinner.
The intercollegiate dance taking place tonight at Hotung Café will include attendees from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, according to freshman Tabias Wilson, an undergraduate intern at the LGBT Center who oversaw the planning for the dance party.
“This is the first time that Tufts’ LGBT community is able to work with LGBT communities at other schools,” Wilson said.
As the umbrella group for student LGBT organizations, QSA will also be sponsoring some of the GAYpril events, including a drag show, the National Day of Silence and the National Marriage Boycott Rally.
Tufts on April 26 is taking part in the National Marriage Boycott Rally for the first time, according to sophomore Allister Chang, QSA co−president.
Chang explained that the rally, which originally began as a student organization at Stanford University, provokes people “to question the way marriage is a privilege not a right.”
He added that Tufts’ participation in the event is made possible by a grant he secured from the Tufts Progressive Alumni Network.
In the annual drag show that had its start two years ago, Tufts students will lead the performances, and professional drag performers from the Boston area will emcee the event, according to junior Simon Katz, QSA treasurer.
Katz added that QSA will also be collecting donations at the show for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts for the first time.
QSA’s second major event for the month is the National Day of Silence taking place on April 16. It is not only symbolic of the silence LGBT community members suffer before coming out, but also the silence they have to endure even after declaring their sexual identities, according to Chang.
Bourdon emphasized that the goal of GAYpril is not to be divisive but to unite all those in the community to promote respect and acceptance.
“GAYpril is something in which we hope all people will participate — queer and straight students, faculty and staff,” Bourdon said. “Our goal is to show our pride as a LGBT community and to get people together to have fun and to learn.”
2. The Daily Targum, March 31, 2010
126 College Ave. Suite 431, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Gaypril events shower campus with awareness
By Mary Diduch
As the University prepares to steam through its final full month of classes, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community is getting set to celebrate Gaypril and 40 years of gay rights activism on campus.
April at the University is gay pride month, with many organizations hosting various events, lectures and demonstrations to make LGBTQ issues more prominent on campus.
“There’s a lot more people that identify with the LGBT community at Rutgers than people might think,” said Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Alliance of Rutgers University President Krista Pecoraro. “The University caters to a lot of different minority groups, and LGBT people need more support from the University.”
The month kicks off tonight with the formal opening of the Center for Social Justice at 7:30 p.m. in the Yorba Lounge in Tillet Hall on Livingston campus.
Though the center has been in its new location since September, this marks a new step in LGBTQ awareness, as it allows LGBTQ students a safe space to feel free about their identity, said Coordinator of Special Programs Jenny Kurtz. Allies are also welcome to discuss any topics about the LGBTQ community they may be unaware of or feel uncomfortable with.
The new center on the second floor of Tillet Hall on Livingston campus has expanded from its previous one on the College Avenue campus. In addition to offices, it can hold small discussion groups and serve as a lounge for students to read or watch TV.
“I see so many more students come through the door and just hang out,” said Kurtz, who added that the center is currently open only during business hours.
It is an area where students can feel comfortable being gender non-conforming, she said.
“[In public], opposite sex couples can talk about going on dates really freely. They don’t have to worry about pronouns. They don’t have to worry if this is a dangerous conversation to be having … I hope this office serves as a liaison that can link [LGBTQ students] to other communities,” Kurtz said.
Pecoraro, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the new center is a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s really great that Rutgers is finally starting to recognize that there is a pretty large LGBT population on campus,” Pecoraro said.
But this is just the start.
She said now, the center can hold about 15 students, but about 120 come to a BiGLARU meeting on a strong night.
In addition to the opening of the center, BiGLARU this month is hosting a Stonewell reenactment in honor of the 1969 Greenwich Village riots in New York City that sparked the gay movement, a Day of Silence and a Queer Ball with LLEGO, the LGBTQ People Union of Color at Rutgers University, Pecoraro said.
“The Day of Silence is to commemorate people who have had to be in the closet, people who have had to be silent about their gay identities,” said Livingston campus Dean of Students Cheryl Clarke, an LGBTQ activist.
On the Day of Silence, which will be April 15 despite the national April 16 date, participants will wear a rainbow pin and take a vow of silence for the day, talking only for educational necessity. At the end of the night, there will be a breaking the silence party in Demarest residence hall on the College Avenue campus, Pecoraro said.
LLEGO President Shawnna James said the Queer Ball is an event where LGBTQ students can feel freer with their identities.
“Queer Ball is an event where we have fun and dance and also spread awareness about the LGBT community,” James, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said.
This year’s Queer ball is themed “Carnivale,” which is also tied to traditional Latino and West Indian culture. James said this would try to bridge the gap between the Latino and LGBTQ communities.
“These different identities that we have separate us, but let’s learn about diversity and embrace it,” she said.
James said their organization also intends to host, in honor of Gaypril, a discussion on privilege. Specifically, how different identities make some people more “privileged” than others.
Some of the other issues LGBTQ people may face in the real world are bullying, harassment and unequal access to resources, James said. On campus, issues may spill into gender-neutral bathrooms and housing, where some students may feel uncomfortable with LGBTQ roommates.
“It’s a fear of not being accepted and fear of violence. You want opportunities to have a safe living environment,” James said.
Questions of identity and when to be open about one’s sexuality can be difficult, especially for young college students, Clarke said. LGBTQ people also face bias and a lack of resources. On campus, often athletics and greek life marginalize LGBTQ students.
“Both areas have very fixed areas of what a man and a woman is,” Clarke said, adding that this is even harder for transgender people, who are gender non-conforming.
Senior Dean of Students Mark Schuster, who teaches LGBTQ history and on the subject of homosexuality in sports, said LGBTQ people should not have to apologize for who they are.
“I believe this is a non-issue when there’s no issue or no reason to talk about it. And I have found teaching these things for 10 years here, I have seen things change drastically,” said Schuster.
The 2010 Gaypril celebrations also mark the 40-year anniversaries of the Stonewell Rebellion and the founding of the Rutgers Homophile League — the first openly gay organization in the state and second in the nation behind Columbia University. The League eventually became what is now BiGLARU.
Since the events of 1969, Clarke said she has seen an increase in awareness about LGBTQ issues on campus.
“Everybody’s more educated about sexuality — other students as well as faculty and staff. You’ll find that consciousness or awareness of issues about sexuality are more integrated into campus life,” Clarke said, adding that there are courses, training and information sessions on the issue.
Schuster said this is one of the most affirming campuses in the United States.
“There are a lot of upper-level administration that are very committed to these issues and that’s why I stay here,” Schuster said.
Kurtz said the presence of groups like BiGLARU and LLEGO represents the diversity of the University and provides safe havens for LGBTQ students.
But there are ways the University can still improve.
“I would like to see more targeted programs and resources to transgender students,” Kurtz said.
These students see more problems with housing and in classrooms, she said.
Athletics, fraternities and sororities are other areas Kurtz said the center is working with to train about the presence of LGBTQ students.
“The good thing is all the places that we work with seem to be really receptive. It’s not about Rutgers,” Kurtz said. “It’s sort of our national culture around some of these issues.”
Pecoraro also said there also needs to be more allies — straight people who are active in support of the LGBTQ community.
“We have a lot of active allies that come to events and support us, but there’s nothing wrong with being supportive of people in the LGBT community,” Pecoraro said.
She said there is a stigma that straight people cannot be affiliated with the LGBTQ community.
“That’s not really true, and you’re making a step to have more diverse people in you’re life is definitely a way to help the LGBT community,” Pecoro said.
3. The Daily Targum, April 1, 2010
126 College Ave. Suite 431, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
New facility unites LGBT community
By Colleen Roache
Like the rainbow-patterned flag that decorated the Yorba Lounge in Tillet Hall on Livingston campus last night at the opening ceremony of Gaypril, attendees of all different colors and sexual orientations came out to support social justice and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning groups at the University.
The ceremony was the first of a series of events intended to bring awareness to issues that affect the LGBTIQQ community here as well as an invitation for students to visit the new center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities in Tillet Hall. The center is an upgrade from the old office on the College Avenue campus.
“This should have happened 20 or 30 years ago,” Senior Dean of Students Mark Schuster said. “But I’m glad it’s finally here.”
This year is the 40th anniversary of LGBT activism on campus, which began when Lionel Cuffie, a student, founded the Rutgers Homophile League, the first openly homosexual organization in the state of New Jersey.
“As we move more deeply into the 21st century, vigilance is evermore crucial as we struggle toward liberation,” Livingston Dean of Students Cheryl Clarke said. “We need to know that having a center requires that we move beyond the safe space mentality … to allow ourselves to be on the edge, to continue to challenge institutional heterosexism and homophobia.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory S. Blimling, who worked with Clarke while planning the beginning stages of the center, was proud to see it come to fruition.
“The way that you become a member of the Rutgers University community is that you become a member of one group,” he said. “This program is very much a part of that fabric of who we are as an institution and contributes to the quality of this institution.”
Jenny Kurtz, acting director of the center, said she is glad to see it survive the tough economic climate, where no part of the University is immune from budget cuts.
“I’m very aware that this is not an easy year to get anything,” she said. “I know it’s going to have long-lasting implications for our community.”
In addition to speakers from the University, singer Miche Braden and spoken-word artist Athens Boys Choir entertained the audience with music and poetry.
“You’ve got a center where you can be yourself, and I’m praying that you’ll be more than just gay when you walk through that door,” Braden said. “Do something good and change this world for me.”
Carlton Harris and Michael Passaro, School of Arts and Sciences first-year students who live in the Social Justice Living-Learning Community on campus, said their experiences at the University are different from what was available to them in high school.
“There were [LGBTIQQ groups], but they were very low-key and not paid much attention to,” Passaro said. “Coming here and seeing how much attention is brought to events like this is a big change. It’s inspiring. It was very good to feel accepted and integrated with everyone.”
Harris said he enjoyed the speakers’ remarks and was glad to see many people show their support for LGBTIQQ groups at the University. He, like Passaro, said the ceremony provided a positive atmosphere.
“The event was amazing,” he said. “It was good that everyone was visible about who they were and why they’re here. We’re at Rutgers just taking initiative.”
4. The Temple News, April 6, 2010
1755 N. 13th St., Room 243, Philadelphia, PA 19122
QSU officials need to be comprehensive
By Joshua Fernandez
Josh Fernandez says when dealing with LGBTQ people on Main Campus, Queer Student Union leaders should consider all spectrums of the community.
Although it seems like anti-gay, anti-American Westboro Baptist Church pulled the end-all-be-all of April fool’s jokes on the Temple community with it’s no-show, the joke was ultimately on them.
Amid a sea of more than 700 students in the vicinity of the Student Center, I was moved at the sight of non-Queer Student Union and non-Purple Circle students, faculty and community members coming together to support the two groups and the cast members of Rent and The Laramie Project.
Compassionate campus and community members sported signs reading, “God Loves Gays,” “I Seriously Doubt God Hates Fags” and other clever, hilarious and supportive messages for the WBC.
Many felt the counter-protest was either a waste of time, or that it indirectly gave the WBC power by acknowledging their presence. I think the strength and spirit of the counter-protest spoke for itself. In addition to last fall’s National Coming Out Week extravaganza, this counter-protest was proof that love and support for the LGBTQ community on campus continues to grow.
Last night, members of QSU gathered in Tuttleman Rm. 103 to vote for next year’s executive board. The group elected freshman biology major Nina Melito as president for the 2010-2011 academic year.
The first time I walked into a QSU meeting, I was intimidated. Never before had I been in a room full of so many queers, and while it felt empowering, it was also terrifying. Over time and through courage and an outgoing personality, I became an integral part of QSU, serving on the executive board and befriending a handful of LGBTQ people.
QSU, however, is not perfect. Despite a successful year with a plethora of events, the group, like other student organizations experienced a lot of melodramatics and cliquiness, ranging from the typical he-said-she-said high school drama, to drama that unfortunately presented itself in the form of power plays.
“We [QSU] cannot afford to be power hungry within our own community,” current QSU President Kate Moriarty, a senior women’s studies major, said in an e-mail. “New QSU leadership should be committed to the causes and put petty, childish and immature personal conflicts aside.”
Although I do not plan on returning to QSU, I am still extremely supportive of the LGBTQ community on campus. To maintain and cultivate the level of love and support shown at the WBC counter-protest, new QSU leadership needs to take Moriarty’s advice and deal with drama and other LGBTQ-related issues.
This is why, Nina Melito, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when mapping your agenda as next year’s president of the QSU.
Inclusion of LGBTQ People of Color
QSU, although fun and full of friendly faces, isn’t cognizant that more often than not, it’s a predominantly white organization.
“It is very important for the future leadership of QSU to be strong and committed to equality within and outside the board,” Moriarty said. “To that extent, QSU must, absolutely must, stay strong with our commitment to exploring the ‘white-ness’ of the larger LGBTQ community and how QSU can again create local, homegrown, Temple University change both within and outside the community. QSU needs to continue dialogues with other race/ethnicity-based groups to talk honestly and openly about the ways in which race and sexuality have significant influence on how we choose (or choose not) to identify.”
When I was a member of the organization, a QSU meeting with 80 in attendance would only include maybe five or six members who were not white. And while many students think the rights fought in the gay rights movement are universal, the truth is that they’re not. The LGBTQ community comes in many shapes and colors, all with different issues.
While the main goal is to achieve equality, we must first achieve a collective community that acknowledges its in-group differences. LGBTQ people of color face an entirely different set of issues, as opposed to the mainstream image of gay rights most think of.
Inclusion of the “B,” the “T,” and others who aren’t gay or lesbian
As Moriarty and several Philadelphia LGBTQ activists once told me, bisexual and transgender members and their issues are often left out of the mainstream gay rights movement.
“In the last year, QSU has made and continues to make a pledge to realign those communities that are traditionally left out of gay and lesbian politics,” Moriarty said. “Our larger community has excluded transgender- and bisexual-identified individuals in many ways, and QSU needs to make a very local, home-grown effort to reversing the erasure of these communities.”
Whether for stereotypical reasons, such as questioning the legitimacy of the bisexual label, or a general lack of understanding trans issues, these typically unrepresented populations need representation and allies within the community, therefore awareness and education must be initiatied.
Last Fall, QSU worked extensively on a campaign to get thousands of signatures for a petition to support gender-neutral bathrooms, a commodity not offered to trans, genderqueer or non-traditional gender identifying individuals. The campaign, as of now, is on hiatus, something the future QSU executive board desperately needs to revive.
“QSU cannot afford to ignore these issues, and those who are considering leadership roles in QSU should ask themselves not ‘if,’ but ‘how’ they will keep the agenda of QSU aligned with underrepresented population in our community,” Moriarty said. “The upcoming President/Vice President of the Queer Student Union must be committed to these issues and will be held accountable by the general body for continuing the work toward the inclusiveness of trans, bisexual and LGBTQ identified people of color.”
And finally, dealing with any or all drama
This is an easy one: Don’t put up with it. If a member or any of your board members comes to you with a concern about drama, feeling left out, et cetera; or if you find that members of your group or board are carrying group or reputation-damaging gossip and airing it all, put it to an end.
That was a big regret of mine, that I sat back and watched the drama unfold itself, tear friendships apart and create cliques. Incoming freshman LGBTQ students will be completely turned off if major drama continues to take place.
“This coming Monday, we are having elections, and the group will be holding all candidates accountable as to their commitment and plan to keep QSU moving toward positive, progressive, all-inclusive, drama-free, trans-positive, bisexual-positive, racism-free, female-positive and group-oriented goals,” Moriarty said. “We will not ask any less of our new, upcoming leaders.”
Nor should QSU have to.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at email@example.com.
5. The Reporter (Minnesota State University, Mankato), April 6, 2010
LBGT group works toward acceptance
By Ashley Johansen
Located on the second level of the CSU is a cozy little room that houses the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center. But within the cozy confines of the Center lives Team MSQ.
Team MSQ, or Minnesota State Queers, is a group of LGBT students and allies that focuses on issues surrounding its own and other underrepresented communities.
"This week, it was beautiful out, so we played duck duck gay duck and other fun games," said Jessica Flatequal, director of the LGBT Center. "Then there are the weeks that we do LGBT focused activities, whether it's on coming out or current events.
As the creator of MSQ, Flatequal wanted a place where LGBT students could go to hang out and connect with other LGBT students and allies. She explained that in her first year at the LGBT Center, before Team MSQ, there were a lot of students who would visit and wanted to get involved with its activities, but there was not an outlet for them. She, along with other student leaders, then came up with the idea for Team MSQ.
"We saw the same regulars everyday and they are fantastic and we're happy to have them, but as far as getting new people involved it was really hard to do," Flatequal said. "So a lot of the student leaders at the time came together and assembled a leadership group that is a place to meet people, a place to network with people and is a fun thing (to be a part of)."
Team MSQ is often involved in event planning, including the upcoming Gender Bender Drag show taking place on April 14. Flatequal explained that the group meetings, which take place every Tuesday at 5 p.m. include many different activities, such as games and workshops on leadership including how to be a good manager and how to communicate effectively. These activities are not solely LGBT-based.
Flatequal also stressed the point that this group is not just for LGBT students but also for allies who want to get involved or just support a friend. With their activities spanning in all different directions, this is a great way to expand ones leadership on campus.
"The other thing that's cool is that we get a chance to talk about programs that we want to do in the year. For me, as a professional, I want students to drive the programming that we do," Flatequal said. "They know what their peers need to hear and know about and also the programming we do is for them I want to have their input."
For most students, Team MSQ is a place where they can be themselves and talk frankly about things that are happening in their lives and around campus. According to Sean Koffman, a Team MSQ member, it's also "a great place to find a sense of community and interact with LGBT and allies."
"The greatest thing about MSQ is the environment. If you come in here, it doesn't really look like an office," said Matthew Navejas, a Team MSQ member. "It looks more like a lounging area we have a TV, great films and, most importantly, it's an area of campus that we know is safe."
Another group that Flatequal explained is secular to Team MSQ is shOUT, a group that is meant for students who have yet to come out and may need a group to support them. This group meets on Thursdays and do not have their meetings in the LGBT Center, but in another, undisclosed location.
"Where as the people at Team MSQ are out for the most part, we don't talk a lot about coming out and those issues, so there really isn't confidentiality, shOUT is our coming out group," Flatequal said. "People can contact us if they are interested. It is like a group. It focuses on serious issues, including allies. Allies have their own coming out stories to deal with. It's an important group."
The next two weeks feature the group bringing speaker Judy Shepard, mother of Mathew Shepard, who was beaten to death on his college campus for being homosexual, and the Gender Bender Drag Show.
Ashley Johansen is a Reporter staff writer.
6. Hartford Courant, April 8, 2010
285 Broad Street, Hartford, CT 06115
Photographer of LGBT Athletes To Lecture And Exhibit at Quinnipiac University April 14
By Josh Powers
Jeff Sheng, founder of the Fearless Campus Tour, a collection of photographs of high school and collegiate athletes who openly self-identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, will discuss his work at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14, in Alumni Hall at Quinnipiac University.
Sheng's talk will be followed by an exhibition of his work, which includes photographs of more than 100 athletes from the United States and Canada.
Also on April 14, Brian Sims, the first openly gay college football captain in NCAA history, will appear in Alumni Hall at 7 p.m. to discuss his experience. Now a LGBT advocate, Sims is the policy attorney for the Philadelphia Bar Association and chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia.
Both campus-wide events are part of the National Day of Silence, which started in 1996 to raise awareness about the harassment aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual students. Today, participation from more than 8,000 schools and universities remain silent throughout the day, with the exception of "breaking the silence" events organized to encourage students to stop hurtful name-calling and create safer schools.
The student organizations, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Supporters (GLASS) and the QU Democrats, are sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.
For more information, please call 203-582-8652.
Quinnipiac is a private, coeducational, nonsectarian institution located 90 minutes north of New York City and two hours from Boston. The university enrolls 5,700 full-time undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students in 52 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs of study in its School of Business, School of Communications, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, School of Law, and College of Arts and Sciences. Quinnipiac ranks among the top 10 universities with master's programs in the Northern region in U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges. The 2009 issue of U.S. News and World Report's America's Best Colleges named Quinnipiac as the top up-and-coming school with master's programs in the North. Quinnipiac also is recognized in Princeton Review's The Best 371 Colleges. For more information, please visit www.quinnipiac.edu.
7. Onward State, April 8, 2010
Penn State Blog
State Speaks: Gay at Penn State
Sometimes, you just need to speak your mind. Today we have Tom Bierly talking about his time at Penn State.
I am gay.
Those are the hardest words I have ever had to say. Through elementary school, middle school, and much of high school, I had been taught that homosexuality was a negative aspect of society. I was told time and time again, ”Gay people don’t want to be gay. They would be straight if they could but they can’t. They’ve caught a terminal illness that they will never recover from.”
I guess I didn’t wash my hands enough.
I grew up in Bellefonte just 10 minutes from campus. I think my first memory of being gay in State College was walking down College Ave holding hands with my then boyfriend and having beer bottles thrown at us from a group of intoxicated students on the street.
After that experience, I found it very hard to fault people for staying in the closet. Penn State has a large and vibrant gay community, but what so few people see are the hundreds still hidden. I’d often have closeted boys reach out to me on Facebook, Skype, or AIM and we’d chat for days, sometimes even weeks, about their feelings and what they want from life. Eventually they’d find the courage (or simply no longer have the strength to continue denying so much of their existence) and want to meet me behind dumpsters, under bridges, in narrow alleyways, all under the cover of night. They’d be ever so careful to make sure no one saw them, thereby avoiding speculation about their sexual orientation.
While living on campus many of my closeted friends were scared to visit my dorm for fear that someone would see them. I always laughed at this notion thinking, “Lots of straight people visit me in my dorm. Surely no one cares if a gay kid comes over occasionally.”
Then one day, while giving a tour to a prospective student, we walked through the halls of the IST Interest House and heard somebody shout out, “Tom’s brought back another faggot.” I was floored. Apparently the student I was showing around was used to dealing with this sort of immature behavior, as he quickly yelled back without missing a beat, “Really?! Get a life.”
That was the last time I gave a tour through the IST Special Living Option. The student chose a private school in Rhode Island instead of Penn State.
I know so many gay students who remain in the closet, and others who have transferred, failed, and dropped out of Penn State because of the way they were treated on this campus.
Later that same year things in the IST Interest House took a scary turn. One night shortly, after I resigned from my position as President of the Interest House in order to assume the presidency of the IST Student Government, I returned to my room after 2:00am to find a death threat written on my white board. To scared to enter my room, I spent my first night sleeping in a hidden corner of the IST Building.
Similar events continued happening through the remainder of the semester. I’d wake up in the morning and leave my room to shower. Upon returning, I’d find a new death threat or gay slur on my door. With only a towel around my waist and a bottle of soap in my hand, I felt so secure…
One would think that after receiving so many threats, they would stop bothering me. That sense of security never came. Each threat scared me over again. For a few short moments, my heart would stop and my fears would consume me. Eventually I’d regain the confidence to trod on by telling myself that if it’s my time to die then such is my fate.
What bothered me more than the threats against me was the negative effects these threats were having on the other LGBT students on the floor. Two men had attempted suicide and ended up in counseling, a third broke up with his boyfriend for fear of being outed in such an unaccepting environment. These attacks against me weren’t just isolated examples of prejudice, they were nothing less than acts intended to inflict terror upon an entire community of people.
Everyone from the RAs to Housing Officials to the Dean of my college knew about the situation, but due to a number of extenuating circumstances, no one knew quite how to appropriately deal with these incidences. For this reason, in the end, nothing was ever done about it. After three years of living on the floor and having a leadership role within the college, I fled from the dorm in search of safety and comfort, so that I could live out my life without the fear of it ending the next time I return home.
Unfortunately, attending classes was opportunity enough for me to be the target of prejudice. All homophobic comments and unfriendly interactions with peers are deplorable. For so many LGBT students going to class is about whether we possess the personal strength to persevere and tolerate the intolerant attacks of so many. It truly is a testament of the LGBT community that so many graduate after all the time they spent holding back fists and tears.
But through all the unfortunate acts I have lived through, I can still look back on my time at PSU as being one of great growth and accomplishment. So many allies have come forward to support me, and the queer community here has welcomed and accepted me with open arms. I truly have a family on this campus and I will never forget the amazing people I’ve come to love.
Recently, I took part in what is considered by many in the queer community to be a great celebration… I performed as a drag queen. I have been attending drag shows since my freshman year on campus. I clearly remember an announcement at the first one I attended encouraging students to use the buddy system to make sure no one walks home alone.
The organizers were fearful of attacks against the queer community after putting on such a controversial event. During last semester’s student drag show (in which I was crowned) we were informed that this year was our largest crowd yet. The drag shows are one of the most popular Late Night Penn State events. With such an outpouring of acceptance, I had let my guard down. After getting dressed in drag and looking quite sexy in my 6 inch heels, I set off down College Ave for a quick drink in Chumley’s. As I walked down the street I got several whistles and a few looks of confusion (as is common), but then there were two guys who were really getting into it. Cat calling and whistling and talking about the things they wanted to do to me… until they got closer of course. They quickly realized I was a man, and unable to deal with the fact that moments ago they wanted to bed a guy they acted out in violence and both lunged at me. One completely missed me, but the other knocked me into the bushes, leaving over 7 bloody gashes in my arm, 5 of which can still be clearly seen two weeks later. They ran away before I could plant my 6″ heels in their testicles. Once again, I’m reminded just how dangerous it is to be gay at PSU. What if I hadn’t been on College Ave, but in a side road without anyone around. Would they still have ran?
As usual, the queer community was there for me. They helped to dust me off and I went out and danced. Despite experiencing terroristic acts of prejudice, I was still able to have an extraordinarily fabulous night.
The LGBT community isn’t the only group on campus to be targeted. Each day people are discriminated on this campus for their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability, religion, and even for their veteran/military status.
It’s for this reason that this year I proposed a policy to have a statement of inclusion and non-discrimination, such as PSU Policy AD42, placed on every syllabus. Many students don’t know that such a policy exists on this campus. Putting a statement of inclusion on every syllabus would create an avenue for students to come forward with concerns and for faculty members to initiate conversations about the types of behaviors that are expected in their classrooms.
This policy was voted into practice by a unanimous vote in the College of IST. It was picked up by the amazing ally (and current UPUA President) Christian Ragland and taken to the floor of UPUA, where the student body said they quite emphatically wanted this to be put on every syllabus across the entire university.
The proposal was then sent to Faculty Senate, where a final vote would have made it policy. However, the Faculty Senate claimed academic freedom and refused to enact such a rule.
Having grown up here, I understand and have a great deal of appreciation for academic freedom, but this policy in no way infringes upon it. Already there are rules about what must be included on syllabi and already there are rules governing what and how professors are permitted to teach in their classrooms. This policy doesn’t govern the topics of classrooms, it simply ensures that students know that they are to be dealt with in a respectable manner.
By refusing to pass this legislation, in my opinion, Faculty Senate is saying that they know these intolerant acts are occurring in their classrooms and they want to ensure that they continue or that they are at very least indifferent about it.
This university has an obligation to its students, staff, and faculty to provide a safe and effective learning experience. It’s time they keep their end of the deal and promote an accepting environment.
I’m here, my LGBT friends are here, all our allies are here, and more and more are joining us on the right side of history each and every minute. We aren’t going anywhere. We Are Penn State! We are NOT STRAIGHT!
8. AnnArbor.com, April 7, 2010
301 E. Liberty St., Suite 700, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
University of Michigan's first openly gay student body president ready to get to work
By James Dickson
Chris Armstrong never thought he'd see the day.
Armstrong, the newly-elected student body president at the University of Michigan, thought his MForward party had campaigned hard, and effectively, when the student government election began in earnest after spring break.
"You try to put your best foot forward," Armstrong said, "but it wasn't until the returns started coming back that we thought, 'Hey, it looks like our work paid off.'"
Not only did MForward send all 17 of its candidates to office, it ushered in a new era in U-M history. Armstrong is the first openly gay student body president the university has known.
The rising senior, a native of Ridgefield, Conn., got involved in the campus gay and lesbian community after arriving in Ann Arbor three years ago. He was a two-year chair of the student government's LGBT Commission before running for the presidency of the Michigan Student Assembly.
Gabe Javier, head of the Spectrum Center at the U-M, became a mentor to Armstrong after the two met at a Spectrum icebreaker when Armstrong was a freshman. Javier said he's expecting big things from Armstrong as president. Armstrong was sworn-in in late March.
"Chris is going to represent the entire student body, not just the LGBT community," Javier said. "What this will show students at U-M is that they can be 'out' and still be embraced by the larger community."
Armstrong said he hopes his victory will show prospective students or incoming freshmen that anyone, from any background, can embody the Michigan spirit.
The MForward party was a coalition of campus politicos, various volunteer groups, and the LGBT community. Even the fraternities and student athletes played a part in the victory.
Armstrong understands what the milestone means for the gay and lesbian community, but said he'll ultimately be judged by what he does for students in the here-and-now.
Armstrong cited two major goals: To establish plans for Saturday night meals at residence halls, and a gender-neutral option in university housing.
"Every incoming president says they'll make student government relevant again," Armstrong said, "but the only way is to do things that actually affect students."
Saturday night meals, Armstrong said, might make weekends less costly for young students who don't have other dining options. Armstrong said he'll also lobby for a Good Samaritan Law in Michigan that will allow underage drinkers to call an ambulance for incapacitated friends without legal penalty.
And the time has come for gender-neutral housing, Armstrong said.
Jeffrey Chang, a Rutgers Law School student who co-chairs the National Student Genderblind Campaign, said the gender-neutral housing movement has national momentum.
"At first it was only the small liberal arts colleges that had it," Chang said, "but now we're seeing it at research universities - the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, many others."
Chang said only a small percentage of students who are offered gender-neutral housing actually take advantage of it, but students should have the option to live with whomever they prefer.
Peter Logan, a spokesman for the U-M Housing Information Office, said the push for gender-neutral housing began long before 2010. U-M's gender-neutral housing is only available to transgender students, and even then, only on request.
"We started that long before 2010," Logan said, "but it'll certainly be something we discuss more."
Logan said students have largely led the effort. Recently, the U-M Residence Halls Association sent a survey on gender-neutral housing to the student body. A total of 67 percent of students supported gender-neutral housing, in principle.
Caitlin Sadler, president of the Residence Halls Association, said full-blown gender neutral housing would take time to achieve but she expected progress over the next year.
The university assigns transgender students based on their birth gender. "A transgender student must wait until surgery is complete before seeking a room reassignment," the university housing page explains.
That, Armstrong said, is the problem: Students shouldn't be required to disclose their sexuality or sexual identity to the university. Better to allow students to choose for themselves what living arrangement works best.
"We're all mature adults," Armstrong said. "And the university should treat us that way."
James David Dickson can be reached at JamesDickson@AnnArbor.com.
9. Detroit Free Press, April 10, 2010
615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226
Gay student leader elected at U-M seeks activism
By Lori Higgins
Chris Armstrong is the newest student body president at the University of Michigan -- and he's making history as the first openly gay person to lead U-M's Student Assembly.
At many universities across Michigan, students are winding down the semester with elections that will determine which leaders take on causes on campuses in the next year.
Armstrong, 20, isn't the first openly gay student body president at a Michigan university. But he's proud to hold that distinction for U-M, the state's second largest. He plans to address gay rights issues on campus, including a proposal to allow gender-neutral housing options.
"It's a really big thing for the LGBT community on this campus," Armstrong said of his victory last month, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students. "I hope it encourages other individuals on campus to come out. And it's proof that U-M is a really welcoming environment."
As student body president, the junior from Connecticut will preside over the 50-member Michigan Student Assembly. Chief among his goals is to bring advocacy and activism back to the body.
"A lot of what we want to do is make (Michigan Student Assembly) a body that really is pushing for student issues on campus," he said.
Students aren't standing up enough against tuition increases and the state's erosion of financial support for higher education, he said. Tuition is $11,659 for most in-state undergraduate students, up 5.6% from a year ago.
"We need to have students standing up and trying to lobby the state legislators, working with the administration to see what can be done," he said.
U-M junior Natalie Kittikul, president of Circle K, a student service organization, said she thinks Armstrong can make the assembly "accountable for making Michigan a better place."
Armstrong campaigned on pressing U-M's administration for gender-neutral housing options that would allow students to choose opposite-sex roommates, rather than always pairing males and females with others of their own gender.
It's an issue he said would appeal to many students, including those who are transgendered and may feel uncomfortable rooming with someone of the same sex.
He also wants to push for a Saturday night dining option for students who live in residence halls.
"Saturday is a big party night. If you have students who are not eating going out and drinking, it becomes a dangerous situation," he said.
Contact LORI HIGGINS: 313-222-6651 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. The Holland Sentinel, April 9, 2010
54 W 8th Street, Holland, MI 49423
Professors join alumni protest over homosexual policy at Hope College
By Stephen Kloosterman
Holland, MI - The second volley has been fired in the war of words between an alumni group and the board of trustees over whether or not to drop a college policy critical of homosexuality.
This time the professors are weighing in.
“Along with many colleagues, I think the statement is discriminatory in its attempt to hold different organizational standards and academic opportunities for individuals and groups based on sexual orientation,” said David Klooster, chairman of Hope’s English department. “If we replaced ‘homosexual’ with another group’s identity — say ‘African American’ or ‘woman’ or ‘Christian’ — we would immediately see that the statement is discriminatory and unacceptable.”
Klooster was the English professor who was barred from hosting a campus film screening of the Academy Award-winning “Milk” with its Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. The event triggered a storm of campus protest over academic freedom issues that made national news and spawned the un-official campus group Hope is Ready, which brought the banned “Milk” screening to a theater on the edge of campus — with Hollywood director Black as discussion host. The Facebook site for Hope is Ready, with 570 friends, hopes to “Ensure that open dialogue is not only allowed, but respected, for Hope students, faculty and staff. The current position within the Reformed Church of America on issues of sexual orientation is to be in open dialogue about these issues. We believe that Hope College, as an affiliate of the Reformed Church of America, has a responsibility to be engaging in this open dialogue.”
Another stated mission of the group is “To encourage the administration to fully acknowledge and affiliate with the Gay Straight Forum, currently a non-official student group on Hope’s Campus.”
An alumni group is asking the school board to eliminate a board policy on homosexuality, written in 1995, that states the college does not approve of homosexual acts or gay advocacy, but instead supports fair treatment for those with a homosexual orientation, and the academic discussion of homosexuality.
Faculty members have signed student and community versions of the petitions, said Klooster
He said faculty committees, including the Professional Interests Committee and a newly-created Sexuality Programming Committee, set up by Hope President Jim Bultman, have been discussing the issue, although the committees may not have a vote on whether or not the policy is rewritten.
“There are faculty members on the board of trustees, so faculty does have representation through the board of trustees,” Hope College spokesman Tom Renner said.
11. The Advocate, April 9, 2010
P.O. Box 4371, Los Angeles, CA 90078
Anti-Gay Graffiti Found at Oregon Univ.
By Kenneth Harvey
Residents of a gender-neutral dorm at Southern Oregon University, found anti-gay graffiti in their hallway walls early Thursday.
The university is located in Ashland, Ore. and local police believe the graffiti was intended to intimidate residents of the dorm.
"Whoever wrote it knew people there or at least knew the names of some of the residents, because it was directed specifically by first names," Sgt. Jim Alderman, of the Ashland Police Department, said. "A lot of the students do have their names on their doors."
According to the Mail Tribune, the graffiti included derogatory statements about the resident's gender and sexuality written in blue ink on the hallway walls and doors. The statements did not include any threats.
"Because of the nature of the graffiti and where it occurred on campus, in this one dorm area, it becomes an intimidation," he said. "It makes it a more serious crime than just graffiti or criminal mischief."
Police estimated the damages at $150, Alderman said.
According to the university, this is the first academic year for the gender-neutral program and dorm includes transgender students, men and women who want to live together and people who are simply more comfortable living in a mixed-gender environment.
12. The University of Idaho Argonaut, April 5, 2010
Gay and Greek
By Jennifer Schlake
Greek perception of gay members evolving
After choosing the house where he wanted to pledge during Rush Week — at Alpha Kappa Lambda — Joe Black admitted to himself he couldn’t deny it — he had to tell his new and future friends he was gay.
When Black first decided to rush in the University of Idaho Greek system, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell everyone the truth. He’d told the truth at Boise State University his freshman year, ended up hurt and decided to move north to find a better college experience.
Coming out hadn’t always been easy for Black. When he came out to his parents before he came to UI, Black saw his dad cry for the first time.
“It was like they knew and they didn’t want to hear about it anymore,” Black said. “It’s just one of those things that it takes time for them to get used to it and eventually they will accept it.”
Being honest with his fraternity brothers at Alpha Kappa Lambda was something Black said he needed to do in order to make friends.
Black seemed to easily settle into AKL, but it hasn’t always been an easy journey, even now that he is a junior.
But the fraternity and sorority system is not like other communities on campus. There’s a certain set of rules and traditions that members must follow, and when there are houses of strictly men or women, some people don’t always feel like they belong.
“The fraternity and sorority system is not meant for homosexuals,” Black said. “It’s set up a certain way and you always feel a little bit of an outsider.”
UI Greek Adviser Matthew Kurz said when people are put together under one roof a different scenario opens up.
“When (Greek chapters) were founded it might have been a time when gays were not as public,” Kurz said. “(Greek houses) have since modified and adapted to society’s changes.”
Kurz has been the adviser for a full year now, and said he has not seen or heard of any issue on this topic yet.
“I think the typical stereotypes of what you would find in Greek communities are there, but I would hope that they would not be perceived as more homophobic than any other student group,” he said.
Kurz said when men are together, testosterone and a sense of being macho result in inappropriate words thrown around, but that it’s a group dynamic that happens and it’s an issue of maturity.
“From what I’m used to (New York), they seem more respectful,” he said. “That’s a great part of the fraternity and sorority experience — it provides learning moments.”
Fraternity members, including Bryan Stafford, have been the inspiration for gay members to act more like themselves.
Black said it’s not unusual for a gay member to invite another guy as his date — Stafford has done this, but he “earned the right,” Black said.
For Black, however, it’s still an awkward situation to bring a guy friend along — he said he just doesn’t feel comfortable yet.
“It’s a little bit hard sometimes when you always feel like you can’t do that when there’s no restriction on you,” he said. “It’s just a matter of what you’re comfortable with.”
The comfort level doesn’t matter only on Black’s side either, but to other members of the fraternity.
AKL has two openly gay members in-house, and their president, Nicholas Hawkins, said the sexual orientation of a member is not a concern.
“We try and get the best guys we can to represent the fraternity,” Hawkins said. “Some (gay members) represent our fraternity better than other members do.”
Whether fraternities or sororities are beginning to become more comfortable with openly-gay members, some pledges haven’t found the road as easy, and Black said not everyone is going to be OK with pledging gay members.
“No matter how forward-thinking a house is, there (are) always some people who are close-minded,” Black said. “It’s just a way of life.”
For senior Cameron Long, it was that “way of life” that caused him to not pledge with a fraternity — the only experience he had with the system — but it was a situation that now leaves him happy with the changes being made to the Greek system.
When he first visited houses in 2006, Long was cautious about who he came out to. If he felt uncomfortable in one house, he decided not to tell people he was gay and simply move on. For him, it made most of the experiences positive.
“I never felt endangered or hostile, it was just these guys operate this way, this is how they function, this is their comfort zone, and I don’t want to go in there and shake things up just because I wanted attention,” Long said. “I was just, ‘OK, this house was not for me.’”
Long made a point to be out from the beginning, but believes that was the reason he is not part of the Greek system.
In one house out of his top three choices, Long felt he was a shoe-in — he knew several friends of the house, and it was the house in which he felt most comfortable.
One day before rush ended, one of his friends in the house came to deliver unexpected news. Seemingly upset, Long’s friend told him some men in the house were uncomfortable with accepting an openly gay member. With already one openly gay member in the house, his friend explained the member’s worries of getting a bad reputation — becoming the “gay” house on campus.
Afterward, Long felt humiliated in front of friends who warned him not to pledge, and angry because he couldn’t change.
Despite the experience, Long said he’s noticed the Greek system gain a lot in the past years. Several houses now pledge openly gay men, and if he were to pledge again he is confident he’d be accepted — but the one experience has still caused him to remain cautious.
“Even though there are those preconceptions, I think that they are changing,” Long said. “I think that people are becoming more accepting. In the near future, even three, four years down the line, it’s going to be even better than it is, and it’s not going to be an issue because already, in some houses, it’s not.”
In those houses it’s the leaders and upperclassmen Black said are the most forward-thinking — leaders cause the close-minded members to be outnumbered and eventually agree with the way of the house, he said.
“You have to be mature about it and look past it,” Hawkins said. “It’s another form of diversity you bring into the house and develop understanding because you’re exposed to it.”
According to Shane Windmeyer, co-founder of the Lambda 10 project, a national clearinghouse for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender fraternity and sorority issues, 10 percent of men in traditional U.S. fraternities are gay, but almost all of them stay in the closet free from potential cruelty.
Today, Black said someone would be more likely kicked out of a house for not being a good member than for being gay.
“… You can’t play the victim all the time,” he said. “You have to get over it and realize that the world is becoming more forward-thinking everyday, and eventually these bigots are going to get phased out.”
Black has lived his life with this sort of attitude, and it has allowed him to experience all the positive aspects of the Greek system.
Although Black said gay members are always walking a fine line, he doesn’t take anything too seriously and anything said is “taken with a grain of salt.”
To Black, getting upset over people using the word “faggot” or making jokes about his sexual orientation would mean he would be upset all the time. Instead he chooses to move on.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing,” he said. “There’s a million different things that people can hate you for.”
LGBT Office Director Rebecca Rod said UI is a unique atmosphere compared to other areas. Awareness has grown on campus in general of LGBT people being here and being more accepted, she said.
In only one instance has a student approached her about some members of her sorority who were having a rough time in the community.
“Generally women have a better acceptance of people’s differences,” Rod said. “There’s a strong stereotype of sorority and fraternity people, just like there are of gay folks.”
But the differences in sorority life compared to other communities of women are obvious to some people, including Rod.
“There seems to be such an emphasis on this hetero-normative and way of being,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure in our society on our young women and fitting into a certain mold, and maybe a lot of sororities reinforce that to an extreme degree.”
Rush by national rules for example, is directed to a certain number of women each sorority is allowed to add to their house each year — their traditions are structured.
A small number of bisexual or lesbian women are open in the Greek system, but among those who are, a positive attitude overshadows the culture.
UI sophomore Michelle Woltmon said she prepared herself for ridicule and surprise from members when she rushed, but the women at Pi Beta Phi were instead supportive. Woltmon had always known she was bisexual, but decided to come out to her family in 2008. As a young child, Woltmon said she didn’t pay attention to gender roles, and rushing a sorority was entirely different from the type of person she was.
“I absolutely hated formal recruitment,” she said. “I’m kind of the type of girl, for the most part, that wears jeans and a T-shirt and doesn’t really do much with myself. For recruitment, you want to look nice everyday and have conversations — that was the hardest part.”
Despite the lifestyle differences, Woltmon said she was on a mission to rush and has never regretted the decision.
“I figured I’d find a house that accepted me for who I was regardless of what my sexual preference was,” she said. “I’m just one of the girls in the house, it’s no different than anybody else, and nobody really treats me any different.”
Some of the women in Woltmon’s house were curious at first, but she said she has never been in a negative situation.
Gamma Phi Beta President Melinda Lewis said a pledge’s sexual orientation is the last thing she focuses on.
“Our focus isn’t what their sexuality is,” she said. “Ultimately, that doesn’t matter.”
Lewis said the support system within a sorority would be great for a lesbian or bisexual woman to feel comfortable coming out.
Another sorority member has come away with a similar positive experience.
Although junior Jackie Reynolds has not been able to tell her parents she’s bisexual, she never hesitated to rush in the sorority system.
“They treated me like a person,” she said.
Reynolds said some members of Kappa Delta were a little uncomfortable with her sexuality, but after a while, began to be OK with it.
The national chapter of her sorority has a rule called, “No KD-on-KD action.” Reynolds said members are sisters and members would not do anything inappropriate with their sister, so although the system seems open to lesbian and/or bisexual members, some rules restrict their lifestyle.
She said the small numbers of gay women in the Greek system could be from the preconceptions of sorority life — that women tend to be more vicious.
“I see girls as a little more hostile,” she said. “But with the house that I joined, I fit in the best. I let the girls know me for me without the label.”
Next year, Rod said she hopes to partner with Kurz and bring more programs of awareness to the Greek system. Since the LGBT office has only been around for a few years, Rod said they have been focusing on the campus in general and in the future she hopes they will focus on specific locations.
“It’s not something that people sort of bring up out of the blue in a positive way,” she said. “There’s so much work to do around these issues. While things are opening up, there’s still a culture that wants to keep things leveled down.”
13. Bay Windows, April 7, 2010
46 Plympton Street, Boston, MA 02118
Historically black colleges and the LGBT community
By Joey Gaskins
How the foundation of African American higher education is preparing itself for openly gay students and staff.
She stood up to speak just after lunch. I happened to be at North Carolina A&T University; one of this country’s most well known historically black universities. I was there for their first "Safe Space" training, invited by the advisor of the newly re-established lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student group on campus. It was a closed session, with administrators and staff only. I wasn’t sure why this woman had stood up or what she was about to say, but she looked nervous and a bit unsure. After a deep breath, she spoke: "I am a lesbian and NC A&T is the first workplace I’ve been in where I’ve felt the need to be secretive about who I am." In this act of bravery, she summed up the experiences of many LGBT students, faculty, and administrators on historically black college and university (HBCU) campuses across the country.
There are approximately 104 HBCUs in the United States. Historically, these schools have been the foundation of higher education for African Americans, with a handful dating back to before the American Civil War. With a clear purpose to educate African Americans, according to a US Department of Education study published in 2004, these HBCU schools account for 13% of black higher education enrollment. For many African American families, their legacies are bound to these institutions of learning as generations have reaped the rewards of higher education. Often, HBCUs are the primary choice for first generation college students. HBCUs are a source of pride and achievement for the African American community, but not all African Americans feel welcomed. Despite the progressive origins of the schools themselves, many schools ignore, deny the existence of, or overtly victimize LGBT students and staff.
The story of the administrator at NC A&T is not an unusual one. What I often hear is that students are afraid to come out. They feel that coming out could jeopardize their college careers, their social standing, and possibly even their safety. LGBT staff with no legal recourses or protections in college non-discrimination policies fear never being promoted, tenure being denied, or being fired all together. The paperwork for gay-straight alliances are misplaced and during our periodic update of the HBCU database it is not unusual for us to hear that certain campuses have no gay or lesbian students at all. Of the 104 HBCU institutions that exist, only 26 have LGBT student groups. In short, LGBT persons on these HBCU campuses often feel unsupported, unacknowledged, and disenfranchised.
The Human Rights Campaign’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities Program’s mission is to change the environment of HBCUs through providing resources, community, and empowerment. Launched in the wake of violence against LGBT students at HBCU campuses, for eight years the program has been on the ground organizing students and their allies, creating programs to encourage dialogue and training students to be leaders on their campus. Because the program is specifically focused on HBCUs, the issues that arise at the intersection of race and sexuality are not overlooked.
Over the last eight years, the work has been fruitful. Despite the fact that only 26 schools have LGBT student organizations, when we started the program there was only a single campus with such an organization. There are now campuses with policies explicitly protecting against harassment and discrimination. Bowie State is poised to be the first HBCU with an LGBT resource center on campus. This year alone Howard University, Morehouse College, and Morgan State have all celebrated pride weeks on their campuses, allowing for educational programming, ways to take action, and social opportunities that have impacted thousands of students who may have never been exposed to the issues facing LGBT Americans.
We not only see this program as a way to change environments on HBCU campuses, and the hearts and minds of the campus community. This program is also committed to empowering LGBT African American youth to be leaders of the LGBT movement. We believe this is essential for a winning strategy as we work toward full equality. Our young student leaders straddle the line between race and sexuality and display the kind of courage that is necessary to bridge the gap between two communities that are often pitted against each other. This program is not only essential to the students it serves, but it also important for a growing movement with increasingly complicated challenges.
Joey Gaskins is the diversity student coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities Program. For more information, please visit http://www.hrc.org/sites/hbcu/index.asp.
14. The Durango Herald, April 10, 2010
1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301
Gay Fort Lewis College students ask for club space
By Chuck Slothower
Fort Lewis College students are petitioning administrators to establish a campus center for gay students and a feminist organization after the college denied a formal proposal earlier this year.
Two student groups, Prism and Feminist Voice, want to share a space. Many colleges have centers for gay students and feminist organizations, but FLC does not.
“There are no resources devoted to these students on this campus," said Chris Hartman, an FLC librarian who serves as faculty adviser to Prism, a student-run club for gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Prism is “clearly not able to fulfill all the varying needs and wishes of these students," Hartman said.
Glenna Sexton, vice president for student affairs, denied the February proposal for a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center after consulting with other FLC administrators.
“The concept certainly has merit and has been seriously considered by the president and vice presidents," Sexton said in a written denial.
“However, with the current severe budget constraints, the proposal cannot be recommended at this time. Adoption of the proposal would necessitate reduction (or) elimination of current student services - even more than we will be doing - to add this service.
“We suggest that the proposal be resubmitted in one to two years, depending upon the budget climate," Sexton said.
Students supportive of Prism and Feminist Voice petitioned outside the FLC library last week, gathering signatures to demonstrate campus support for the resource center. They created a makeshift structure out of cardboard and scribbled it with “Gender and Sexuality Resource Center" in colorful markers.
“I think we have a lot of support from the student population in general," said Sage Grey, a junior communications major active in Prism.
Jessica Low, a sophomore business administration major who said she supports Prism and Feminist Voice, said FLC needs a place for students struggling with their sexuality.
Low said some of her gay friends “went through hell with their families and with their friends, and people need help."
Lauren Evarts, a sophomore graphic design major from San Diego, said she protested against California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the nation's most populous state. She said FLC's gay students need a place of their own.
“I was surprised when they got denied, and it made me angry," she said.
An FLC budget proposal calls for cutting $4.5 million during the next two years to ease a budget crisis driven largely by state cuts.
But Hartman said that despite the budget crisis, gay, bisexual and transgender students should not have to wait to have a welcoming place on campus.
“Honestly, I think there is harm in waiting," she said. “It's very important symbolically for the community, and in a very real way, for students to congregate."
Hartman said student groups for Hispanic and Native American students have their own centers. “It allows a certain community-building to happen that just isn't possible without it," she said.
FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said Hartman's proposal was denied because of a lack of funding and space.
“It's something we'd like," Davis said. “It's just not feasible at the moment."
FLC administrators estimated the proposal would cost $3,400 for office supplies and technical support, plus $2,400 for furniture.
But Hartman said the center could be started for less, possibly with donated furniture.
Grey said gay students and others deserve a space to meet.
“It kind of sounds like we're one of the few who doesn't have representation, and we're a pretty large subculture on campus," he said.
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