by Thomas Mccarthy
Geneseo’s SA sponsored LGBTQ group on campus is the Pride Alliance. The organization serves a variety of roles from providing a weekly safe space for members of the community to outreach onand outside the scope of campus. Pride focuses, like other cultural clubs, on building a local community within Geneseo. A subgroup of Pride, Advocacy, was formed to specialize in activism and outreach projects at Geneseo and to the surrounding community. Projects in the past that Advocacy formed range from combating the “Ban on Gay Blood” during blood drives to contacting local high schools organizations similar to Pride and sharing resources/ having dialogues with them.
This semester Advocacy formally reconvened after a brief hiatus, and some of the first projects the group decided to pursue was establishing a LGBTQ display in Milne Library and acquiring and maintaining a communal book shelf outside the Pride office. Both projects had similar goals: to not only increase visibility and awareness outside the Pride community about LGBTQ history, politics, and modern issues, but also to help those inside the community find resources when often they can be fragmented.
Both projects sought to introduce students to materials they otherwise might have not known
about or familiar. Most educational experiences, to my understanding talking to people inside and outside of Pride, do not cover or educate about any LGBTQ topics. Various education systems fail students when they do not recognize history and lived experiences of any group of people. LGBTQ students have much higher risks for mental health problems and suicide, so the necessity of acknowledging and giving space for these students to discover themselves and for others to begin to understand them is essential.
Teachers and Educators should be made aware of ongoing issues and concerns for LGBTQ students, and be conscious and sensitive to the difficulties and potential marginalization and abuse these students can face. The sharing and studying of these texts takes these experiences and people out of the “taboo” area which only perpetuates the harms towards these students even more. By sharing these texts or even making people aware of them, we hoped to articulate and shed light on the histories, literature, and figures in the LGBTQ timeline that are relegated, consciously or not, in pre-collegiate education systems.
The direct benefit of teaching and educating about LGBTQ issues and texts is that students can begin to view these people as legitimate and common rather than taboo and deviant. By normalizing these discussions and communications, especially by studying and being made aware of the texts, not only can LGBTQ students feel more comfortable and more receptive in educational settings, but teachers can begin to respond to and intervene on behalf of these students in environments that may feel hostile or unsafe for LGBTQ students.
Many texts also work as tools to help LGBTQ students even if they do not initially appear to be LGBTQ related. Tons of our canonized authors from Greek poets to Shakespeare to Thoreau are thought or known to have been what today is classified under the LGBTQ umbrella. Although their experiences are different, acknowledging these authors, and not rewriting them as heterosexual, supports and validates the students struggling with these issues. Many of the texts that are displayed in Milne are historical texts that are highlight facts about previous societies and peoples that had spaces and recognition for LGBTQ and same sex relationships.
Stories are our fundamentally way of situating ourselves to those around us. So often the stories of LGBTQ people are not shared or ignored. The goal of this project is to help others become aware of these experiences that support and validate LGBTQ students and to also to make others outside those identities aware of the value of those people around them today and the richness and meaning that can be learned and taught from experiences of LGBTQ people.
Be sure to check out the LGBTQ education display near the staircase on the main level!
To find out more or to get involved, attend a weekly Pride and Advocacy meeting on Thursdays at 8 pm in the College Union’s Hunt Room (Rm. 135).
For research help on LGBTQ issues, check out Milne’s LGBTQ Studies library Guide.