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GEORGIA COLLEGE & STATE UNIVERSITY

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GC strides for Pride

 

In today’s shift toward awareness of LGBT+ issues, college campuses hold a crucial position in providing education and advocating for the inclusion of transgender and nonbinary students.

 

GC has made visible strides towards providing LGBT+ students with inclusive spaces, such as The HUB and the LGBTQ+ center. However, providing marginalized students with these resources can only do so much when the outside community remains uneducated on trans and nonbinary inclusion.

 

Joanna Schwartz, a GC marketing professor, held an open discussion on Oct. 23 regarding the basic concepts of LGBT+ campus inclusions. As a member of the trans community, Schwartz sees that the education of non-LGBT+ members on these concepts is the key to progressing towards unified acceptance on campus. 

 

“Sometimes it can be as easy as just keeping up with the news about issues that are impacting our LGBT community” Schwartz said. “Often people don’t follow issues that don’t affect them, so just knowing what’s going on helps.”

 

The creation of Safe Space training through the LGBTQ+ center on campus has provided further student and faculty educational outreach.

 

These sessions are focused on “affirming people of all sexual and gender identities and less- ening the prejudice that limits the university experience and well-being of LGBTQ+ identified students, faculty, staff, faculty members and administrators,” according to GC’s website description. 

 

Safe Space program coordinator, Melissa Gerrior, also advocates for the continuation of educating campus members on LGBT+ information as a means of combating misunderstandings and prejudice.

 

“It’s so important to be a conscious consumer of information,” Gerrior said. “Look for resources that are written and produced by transgender and nonbinary people and organizations centering them.”

 

According to Pew Research Statistics, 12 years old is the median age at which LGBT+ members rst recognize themselves as something other than heterosexual, and most do not feel sure of accepting their identity until 17.

 

As LGBT+ students begin heading off to college around this age, the vulnerability of facing an unknown social environment is compounded for students in a marginalized group. Yet for some members of the LGBT+ community, college provides an essential opportunity  to express their true identities.

 

GC student Emily Halpin shares this narrative, as moving away from home gave them a better space to explore their part in the LGBT+ community.

 

Halpin has always identified as a lesbian in terms of sexual orientation but never felt fully comfortable being labeled as female-gendered. Coming to GC and nding a more inclusive environment provided them with a better knowledge of being nonbinary, an alternative category for gender identity that is neither rigidly female or male.

 

“When I got to college and started being more involved in real-life, naturally-formed queer communities that I really hadn’t been a part of before, I kind of started realizing why I didn’t feel like a woman, but why I also didn’t feel like something that wasn’t entirely not a woman,” Halpin said.

 

Under this nonbinary identification, Halpin uses “they/them” pronouns as opposed to “she/her” or “he/him,” which has allowed them a release from the previous discomforts they felt in identifying as one gender.

When a GC philosophy professor asked each of her students to self-identify with their preferred pronouns, Halpin was able to of cially express their gender identification for the first time.

 

“I started just by writing it down just so she knew [my pronouns], and she only had to see it once and used that pronoun for the rest of the semester, which made it a lot easier for me,” Halpin said. 

 

“Someone in authority was using it with people in the room, and the people in the room had no other choice but to follow what the professor does or face the wrath."

 

Though the climate of LGBT+ acceptance is gaining a larger aware- ness on campus, GC still lacks in many aspects of recognizing changing student identities. For example, there is the complicated process in changing your name on a Bobcat card, among other student identi cation sources, explained LGBT+ student Peter Pendleton.

 

“Anybody who hasn’t been able to have their name legally changed is just completely out of luck, and then even once you do get your name legally changed there’s still issues,” Pendleton said.

 

Students can now have their preferred name on the front of their Bobcat cards, Pendleton said, but they still have to have their old name on the back. Only once a legal name change is documented, can a student of cially change their name on the bobcat card.

 

Halpin said that they believe the lack of education regarding LGBT+ issues contributes to the slow progress the university has made in recognizing a need to change the names on Bobcat cards.

 

“I will say that I think a lot of professors are se- verely uninformed, and I don’t think it comes from a hateful place,” Halpin said. “It’s just that, if you don’t ever have to go through a legal name change, if you don’t have to feel uncomfortable in your own body, if you don’t have to worry about holding your partner’s hand walking down the street, you’re not going to think about any of those things. It’s just not going to occur to you.”


In Halpin’s college experience, professors willing to make strides towards real and genuine acceptance of LGBT+ students has made the most impactful difference on campus.


“I’ve seen more open minded, more diverse people come into teaching positionshere,andthatisnot only incredible because they are gonna be able to lead by that example,” Halpin said. “It’s amazing for me to see someone like Dr. Joanna living a happy adult life because a lot of us don’t see examples of people like us living and thriving past 30.”

 

Pendleton has also seen a remarkable change in LGBT+ community awareness and acceptance since his freshman year at GC and position as Pride Alliance president.

 

“There are trans people on campus, and as they’re becoming more con dent in their identities sooner, they’re getting the courage to talk about the difficulties of that on campus, and it’s making it a safer environment, so more and more people will hopefully continue to come to this school and feel safe here,” Pendleton said.

 

Continuing the discussion and education of LGBT+ concepts and community is essential in moving GC towards a more uni ed and inclusive environment overall.

 

“I have an obvious, vested interest in not being treated like a second-class citizen, but when someone stands with me even when it doesn’t affect them personally, that speaks not just to me, but to the people around them,” Schwartz said. “That’s how change happens.” 

 

 

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