Gay/Straight Alliance laying foundation for acceptance

On Oct. 11, 1987, thousands of individuals gathered on the Washington Mall to participate in the historic Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This event became one of the largest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) events in history, and it was decided that October 11 would become the official National Coming Out Day beginning in 1988. 27 years later, this day is still celebrated by thousands worldwide.
National Coming Out Day was created not only to celebrate coming out, but also to raise awareness of the LGBT community. As time progresses, the LGBT community is finally gaining more awareness and respect than in the past.
While large scale events like the March on Washington are great for raising awareness for the LGBT community, there are also smaller organizations dedicated to that same cause, like IVCC’s Gay/Straight Alliance. The Gay/Straight Alliance was formed about 13 years ago at the request of students, and the purpose of this organization is to foster a more tolerant and understanding community, to provide a safe environment for people to express their sexuality, and to educate people on the issues related to sexual orientation.
One of the advisors for the Gay/Straight Alliance, Renee Prine, says “We have always had an open meeting policy, welcoming anyone in the community and/or students from the local high schools.
“Educational programming helps break down barriers. . . I love working with our students and feel that some students need supports in place to be successful. Anything I can do to make that student more comfortable, feel like a leader, and allow them to be themselves is success.”
Jason Beyer, another advisor for the club, explains the long-term and short-term goals of the club, saying “The short-term goals are typically providing a place for our LGBT students (and staff, if they wish to attend) to find acceptance, support, and camaraderie; plus whatever else the students feel the need for at that time. Long-term, like all other such organizations, we are hoping to help lay the foundation for a greater acceptance of people’s diversity. “
Despite the fact that acceptance for the LGBT community is steadily growing as time goes on, coming out can be a challenge for many people.
Like anyone who varies from the so-called societal norm, those with a sexual orientation other than straight may feel estranged as a result of being “different.” Unfortunately, there will always be people in this world who are rigid in their close-minded beliefs that being gay is immoral or taboo.
When asked about the problems in the LBGT community, Beyer says, “One (of the problems) is the still very pervasive view that LGBT identity is in some way inherently problematic–that it is a ‘problem’ that needs to be ‘solved’ rather than an element of human diversity to be embraced.” There are ongoing debates about whether sexual orientation is chosen or inborn, but in either case there is no justification for discrimination or judgement.
Because of narrow-minded viewpoints on the subject of sexuality, some may wonder what there is to gain from coming out. Coming out may mean opening yourself up to judgement, but it also means being free to express yourself. Confidence is key.
IVCC student Kyle Vogel says, “From coming out I gained trust and friendship, and I also learned who my true friends were.”
Jon Sydlowski also gives some insight on coming out, saying, “You’ll be stronger as a person, and if someone who used to accept you doesn’t, then they aren’t worth keeping in your life.
If someone really cares about you, they won’t care what your sexual views are. It’s such a miniscule part of life. There’s so much more.
“Being gay or straight shouldn’t keep you from pursuing the job you want, listening to your favorite music, or hanging out with your friends. Your life will still be your life, the only thing that changes is who you date and that’s your business and no one else’s.”
Those who are uninvolved in the LGBT community may wonder why any of this really matters.
However, the acceptance of diversity in sexuality, as well as anything else, is a monumental step for society.
Finally, those who struggle with outwardly expressing themselves can feel accepted. And through organizations like the Gay/Straight Alliance, people can help others to gain a better understanding of the LGBT community and consequently make a step towards a more accepting society.
Ultimately, there is no specific structure for love; it simply is what it is.
No matter who you are, there should be no prejudice against love. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”