Students of Pride discussed how to become an ally to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students and members within the La Verne community at an event called Building Bridges.
During the Oct. 18 meeting, members of the Doctoral Psychology Program club and undergraduate students talked about how they can create a safer and more inclusive campus for the LGBT community.
“It’s about mobilizing individuals and getting them off the sidelines and bringing out the allies.” said Adam Wiswell, co-chairman of Students of Pride.
At the beginning of the meeting, participants were given a quiz to test their knowledge of LGBT issues such as bullying and suicide. During introductions, students were instructed to give their preferred gender pronouns in addition to their names and reasons for attending.
The first topic of discussion was how society views the LGBT community and what consequences might result, such as discrimination and hate crimes. Shannon Garcia, senior speech communication and sociology major, spoke about the problems she has seen on the La Verne campus.
“Sometimes the harassment is subtle,” Garcia said. “It’s more institutional, the whole place should be a safe zone, not just one little section.”
Garcia said that La Verne does not have any gender-neutral bathrooms that suit the needs of those who do not fit into the gender binary or an LGBT resource center for students to utilize.
Throughout the meeting participants were encouraged to share their stories of discrimination that they or their friends encountered. They discussed ways in which being an ally could help these issues. Some of these steps included pledging to not use anti-LGBT slurs.
As an ally, it is important to be visible, active and available to help. Kellie Ashby, a member of Students of Pride, said. This meeting created a connection between the LGBT and allies in attendance and provided the LGBT students a new safe and open person to talk to in times of need.
At the end of event, the participants were given the same quiz they had taken at the beginning of the discussion to assess how their knowledge increased. The new allies learned how to recognize when others might be in need of help and what resources they should direct peers in need to, such as The Trevor Project or the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
They also received contact information to reach Rep. David Dreier and California State Sen. Bob Huff, both of whom represent La Verne, to voice their support for LGBT equality.
Junior psychology major Karina Tamayo came with her boyfriend and her friend to the meeting to offer her support as a straight ally. After the event, Tamayo said she was happy she came and she felt inspired to become more involved.
“The campus needs to be more open because there are people who feel oppressed,” Tamayo said, “My goal is to be more politically active and really fight for equal rights.”
The members of the meeting came to a consensus that while many students and faculty members are accepting and tolerant, policies for LGBT students need to be more inclusive.
“Talk is cheap. We’re going to start causing a ruckus to get these needs met,” Wiswell said.
Katie Madden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.