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Sometimes it really does get better.

23 Aug

This is something that’s already been shared all over, but I couldn’t help but post it. Too frequently we speak about things that make us angry. Now here’s a little something about people doing the right thing.

Virginia college student Jordan Addison had been tormented by classmates and had his car repeatedly vandalized with anti-gay epithets and “DIE” keyed into his door. Being a college student, Jordan simply couldn’t afford to get his car fixed.

That’s when local business owners stepped in. Check out this video and break out the kleenex.

Lesbian College Student Bullied by Anti-Gay Professor in Class

17 Oct

Christina Santiago

A lesbian student at Indiana University in Pennsylvania was verbally attacked by her professor due to her sexuality. Christina Santiago, a student at the university’s Eberly College of Business Information and Technology was in class when the discussion turned to homosexuality.

The unidentified professor then took it upon herself to go on a diatribe stating “homosexuals are disgusting, unnatural and abnormal.” When Santiago raised her hand and identified herself as a lesbian, she asked the professor if she was referring to students like herself. The professor responded “Yes, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam.”

Students on the campus have started to rally in support of tolerance and the school and teacher’s unions have yet to comment on the matter, merely stating that they are investigating the situation.

One must wonder firstly how a moral discussion of sexuality came up in a business class. Secondly, someone needs to tell the teacher that it’s “Adam & Steve,” not “Adam & Adam.”

Happily, it seems as though Christina has a great deal of support in coming forward with her story. Let’s hope the school and teacher’s union both take action on this serious case of discrimination and bullying.

Watch the news story here

Christian College Freshman Harassed By Students and Professors

9 May

Isaia Thomas (photo by John C. Whitehead for The Patriot News)

Openly gay freshman Isaiah Thomas has discovered Messiah College in Grantham, PA is not quite a good fit. According to PennLive, The student has been through hell at the Christian College – from having his wallet, room key and student ID stolen just a month after school started to having a professor call him “an abomination” in class to receiving a death threat on his facebook page. Isaiah has decided to transfer at the end of the semester.

The Christian College requires all students to sign a “Community Covenant” which forbids homosexual behavior, according to school provost Randy Bassinger. he also claimed the school had a very strict harassment policy and has investigated the claims from Isaiah, but they refuse to release the results of any of those findings.

What we find most interesting about Isaiah though is not that he was harassed and is leaving, but he actively worked to change the school’s policies. He is the secretary of the multicultural council, a member of the black student union and by invitation, vice president of the Middle Eastern Student Association. And when Isaiah learned about the Covenant, he actively worked for more inclusion, but each teacher he spoke to defended the covenant.

Back in March, we reported that another Christian school, Harding University was under fire from LGBT bloggers and press after they blocked an HU gay student website from being accessed from on-campus. The University defended it’s bigotry and it’s censorship of several students continues.

Growing Up GLBTQ: Now There’s a Guide!

30 Mar GLBTQ--survival-guide

When I was just considering coming out, I was 18 years old. I lived with my mom on the bottom floor of a house next door to a church. Across the street was a little plaza which contained a video store. When I was home on breaks from college, I would wander through the tiny video store reading the back of every VHS tape and searching for the word “gay.” I’d tuck the bulky tapes under my coat and sneak them into my house and spend afternoons watching them while my mother was at work.

It was then I learned that others like me existed. From the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, Maurice to the campy Jeffrey, I was discovering who I was through film. It was the perfect anonymous way to do a little research. Movies like this are what made me realize that there was a community for me. As I became more confident, my friend Michael Hammond became my fairy godmother in a way. He would take me to Boston or Cambridge and we’d go see gay movies in the art houses there – we tried to catch Johns with David Arquette, but it was unfortunately sold out that evening. “Johns is sold out” then became code when Michael wanted to point out to me another person who was gay. I was beginning to discover my community.

I often think about what would have happened had I started that research when I was still in high school, but there was very little available to me that would answer the questions I had. Things have changed.


Free Spirit Publishing has published the second edition of GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens. This is a book I would have stolen from my library. Written by Kelly Huegel, GLBTQ is a book that NEEDS to be in every junior high and high school library. The book is thorough and could help empower so many young people who are going through their adolescence full of fear.

The book covers so many different topics, opening with the basics of figuring out who you are and moving through how to deal with homophobia, strategies for coming out – specifically figuring out if it is safe to do so and how to tell your family if it is, finding community, dating, sexual and emotional health, religion and even features some in-depth discussion for transgender teens.

The author not only offers intelligent commentary and advice for teens, but she features real-life examples. Throughout the book, you’ll find segments titled “BEEN THERE,” which feature teens’ stories of how they have dealt with the challenges mentioned in each chapter. These real-life examples help illustrate the real-life challenges kids face, and how they deal with them.

The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has a wonderful program which sends “Safe Space Kits” to schools around the country. For only $20, you can send a kit to your high school to help educate that school’s staff and administration on how to make the school safe for LGBT students. It’s a wonderful campaign, and I can tell you that the two high schools and three junior high schools I attended have all received one. I would like to recommend to GLSEN that they find a way to include this book in their kits. And if that is not cost-effective, I would like to call on anyone who reads this, to send a copy of this book to your own school library.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens is available at Amazon for $10.87!  Please, take a moment and do an ounce of research. Find out who at your high school or junior high should receive this to make it a part of the school’s library collection and send a copy. Make sure that the kids who are growing up now have a resource. And more importantly than that – help those kids understand that there is a community for them, they have friends and people who love them unconditionally.

Being a teenager is rough. Being an LGBTQ teenager can be hell. We know this. Help make it easier and send this book back to your school.

The State Of The Gay UPDATED: H.U. Responds

2 Mar

Students at Harding University, an evangelical university in Arkansas affiliated with Churches of Christ, have banded together to start an ambitious and courageous LGBT student publication.

The H.U. Queer Press, as it is called, has issued a “State of the Gay” zine. In their own words:

We are here to share with you our struggle. We are here to be a voice for the voiceless who are quietly dying inside the walls of our campus. We want you to know us. We are your friends, co-workers, students, family members, fellow worshipers, professors, athletes, and scholars.[...] We are queer. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. While the rest of you fall in love with the opposite sex, we share our lives and beds with those of our own gender.

All is not well for us at Harding. Our voices are muted, our stories go unheard, and we are forced into hiding. We are threatened with re-orientation therapy, social isolation, and expulsion. We are told stories and lies that we are disgusting sinners who are damned to hell, that we are broken individuals and child abusers….We have felt the pain of the deep, dark closet, and we are here to announce that we will not stand for it any longer.

You see, at Harding University you can be suspended or kicked out for drinking, being gay, looking at porn, staying with a member of the opposite sex in a hotel, even if nobody actually observes you having sex, and for many other violations. Take a look at their student handbook and you will get a good idea of the climate in which these brave students are speaking out:

Harding UniversityHarding University holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to Godoutside the context of marriage. Sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the University. Visiting in the residence of a single member of the opposite gender, even though others are present, without permission is prohibited.

Staying overnight in a motel, hotel or any such arrangement with a member of the opposite gender will result in suspension, although explicit sexual immorality may not have been observed.

Students are prohibited from possessing or displaying pornographic materials of any type. This includes the use of vulgarity, profanity, and any offensive language or offensive symbols.

Students are not allowed to social dance or go to dance clubs, bars, or other inappropriate places of entertainment.

The illegal, unauthorized use or abuse of Harding University’s telephone, computer or network system is prohibited.

Men and women are discouraged from excessive public displays of affection.

Check out their incredible website. There are some touching personal stories:

So I don’t remember ever choosing to like girls. It’s just how things always were. It’s what felt natural. It wasn’t until I was told it was wrong that I felt I should be different.

This publication is partly introspective, partly angry, partly sad, often hopeful and completely personal. They simply want their colleagues at the University to know who they are and when I read their words I can’t help but think that they represent the queer experience of a lot of youth in unfriendly parts of the country.

Hopefully many people will read this wonderful venture and come away more compassionate, understanding, and with more empathy.  This is how we change hearts and minds.

 

****UPDATE****

Harding University has responded with regards to its’ censoring of the anonymous students who published the H.U. Queer Press:

Harding University is a private Christian university whose mission and policies are rooted in biblical principles. All students are given a copy of the handbook and know about our mission and policies before their first day on campus. The student handbook states that the university holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage and that sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the university.

Based on that policy, university administrators felt that having this website available on campus goes against said mission and policies. In addition, the handbook states that any literature distributed on campus must be approved by the Office of Student Life and must state the name of the sponsoring organization. These pamphlets were both printed and distributed anonymously with no prior approval, and the website is an online version of that pamphlet.

Again, bravo to these brave young people for challenging archaic rules that can result in the long-term harm of their fellow students.

Being Gay Is Not A Choice, But Your College Is…

21 Jan

When I was searching for Colleges factoring in relative Gay-friendliness never occurred to me. As I’ve written before I had a decidedly mixed collegiate experience after coming out. I can’t say I attended an incredibly gay friendly University, it being an Urban Catholic University in Pittsburgh, but there were definite pockets of support. We even had a GSA, though it caused a major controversy.

Now it seems an increasing number of young people are factoring in campus LGBT friendliness when deciding where to go to college. According to the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in 2009 9 out of 10 LGBT Middle and High School students said they faced harassment. Coming from that environment a growing amount of students want to be sure they are going to have positive experiences at the next level. Recent incidents of Collegiate harassment and prominent stories of student suicides are adding to the concerns of students and parents:

The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students seeking a university that is “gay friendly” is increasing, driven by Web sites that rate schools on how supportive they are of gay students.“It’s definitely a phenomenon,” said Luigi Ferrer, the director of programs and grant development at Pridelines Youth Services, a Miami Shores, Fla., nonprofit where he works with Louis, a counselor. “Students are sometimes prioritizing [LGBT] resources even over the academic reputation of the school or the financial aid they can get.”

College still isn’t a guaranteed safe-haven, but some are better than others. Campus Pride has a ranking system, as does the Princeton Review, and it should be a factor in any young LGBT student’s search.  College can be a difficult and eye-opening experience, but it should be fun and give you the chance to grow and change.  It shouldn’t be harder because you are gay and colleges and universities have an important role to play in making sure that’s the case.  The ones that perform that function best for its students should be rewarded with our best and brightest young LGBT minds.

It’s all part of making sure this doesn’t happen anymore.

 

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