Education is the way to strengthen awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) experiences on campus and throughout life, says Kendra Mahoney, president of the Pride Alliance
. The student group brings together GLBT students and allies to strengthen support for everyone on campus. Pride hosted several informational and community-building opportunities during an annual event series called Coming Out, Coming Together.
From a candlelight vigil for GLBT people lost to violence and suicide to educational bingo hosted by drag queens, Coming Out, Coming Together attracted several hundred students to events.
“At a few events, we welcomed students to sign a banner pledging support for the GLBT community,” says James Fanning, Pride treasurer and a junior psychology student. “The banner started out with rainbow colors and now it’s almost black from all of the signatures.”
A keynote panel discussion titled Out of the Locker Room, featured professional and student athletes and was moderated by Pat Griffin, a leading researcher and educator in GLBT experiences and sports teams.
“This event reached people who might not have these discussions otherwise,” says Mahoney, a senior political science student.
The panelists discussed issues facing GLBT athletes and how to address negative gender and orientation-related language. While such harassment is not common on campus, according to Pride, having these difficult discussions will encourage everyone involved to consider their words and actions more carefully.
“The event with Pat Griffin was a great experience,” says Keith Lewis, a senior track and field athlete and Student Government Association vice president, who spoke on the panel. “As an openly gay athlete, it was gratifying to see the support of other athletic teams, not just my own.”
The athletics department also showed their support for GLBT students by premiering their You Can Play
video, featuring student athletes welcoming others to their teams regardless of sexual orientation or other personal factors.
“For the athletes, the video is important because being on our teams is like being a family, and in a family you support each other no matter what,” says Candace Greene, chair of the Student Athlete Advisory Council
and senior track and field athlete. “I think it’s also important for athletes to be involved with this because I don’t want people to believe all we care about is sports and we only like certain types of people. We’re students just like everyone else here. We work hard and support each other through everything.”
Furthering the Conversation on Trans Awareness
While acceptance of gay, lesbian and bisexual students has risen in recent years, the transgender community has not received the same support, says Mahoney. Pride will mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance by hosting educational events, welcoming educator Jesse Beal and participating in a memorial event
organized by the Center for Hope and Healing. Learn more about the events on the group’s website
“It can be difficult to find the best starting point for these conversations,” says Mahoney, “but we just want people to care about what we’re presenting. Our events are getting larger each year and the support is definitely growing, so people are listening and talking.”