LGBTQIA students at Saddleback College fight for rights and acceptance on campus. (PxHere/CC0 license)
The Associated Student Government and the Student Health Center held a LGBTQIA+ Awareness workshop Thursday, Nov. 9 at Saddleback College. The reason for the workshop was to educate the public about current terminologies and to provide resources and support for the community.
“There’s actually different variations, but L is for lesbian, G is for gay, B is bisexual, T is trans or transexual, Q is questioning or genderqueer, I is intersex and then A is asexual or can also be allied and there’s a plus sign because there are many more,” said Student Health Center psychology intern Jamie Lugger.
Lugger presented an overview of each of the different sexual orientation/identities, health risks and statistics and resources for help and support. She said she sees more students come to the health office with pansexual or questioning sexual orientation/identities.
“Pansexual seems to be the one I’m seeing more so lately,” Lugger said. “Also, questioning- some that are just unsure and so they’re just experimenting and trying to figure out where they belong and who they are.”
Pansexual is when someone is attracted to a person emotionally or sexually. Pansexuality is more about the person’s personality and characteristics, regardless of what their sex or gender identity is.
President of the Associated Student Government Erica Delamare hosted the event, hoping to educate people on the importance of inclusion and education on the topic.
“We want to educate and to ensure students who are part of the LGBTQIA to know that they are not alone and that there are people here to help and support them,” Delamare said.
Often people in the community suffer feelings of isolation or rejection. Suicide rates are four to seven times higher for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth than the general public, and even higher for transgender youth, according to a 2017 study by The Trevor Project.
“They are afraid to come out and they’re not necessarily afraid of who they are, but they’re afraid of how others will receive them,” said Lugger. “And so, a lot of times they cope by drinking, by smoking, by overeating, by using drugs, and then a lot of times there’s depression, anxiety and then suicidal thoughts, and sometimes unfortunately attempts, because they don’t know how to cope, and they don’t feel accepted, and sometimes they are rejected by their own gender.”
John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were advocates for not only peace during the Vietnam War, but also for people’s tolerance of diversity. This was one of the posters shown in the presentation. (Pixlr)
She wants students to feel comfortable to come to the Student Health Center. Lugger said students do come to the Student Health Center on their own, but often it is through outreach programs or through an instructor who brings them in. Through workshops and programs, faculty can help directly or indirectly by providing resources for students.
“A lot of students, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation, they are not even aware of the services of the Student Health Center,” Lugger said. “They pay their health fee, but they don’t know what that goes towards, so a lot of times it’s just awareness that we have services and we want to help them.”
Carmenmara Hernandez Bravo, Professor of Spanish Language/Chair of Equity and Diversity on campus, has been the LGBT advisor for the last 25 years and likes to come and support her students. She introduced a new program called the Safety Net Program at the meeting.
“The Equity and Diversity committee last year got together and a student came up with a beautiful sticker and it is for professors to put it in any office on campus, so they can put it in on their windows,” Hernandez-Bravo said. “ So, a student who is in distress for any issue, they can come to talk to us. We believe if it is something that we can do, we can listen to them, otherwise we can send them to the health center or talk to a counselor.”
Hernandez Bravo fights for LGBT rights on campus and said that there is a need to change the current college mission statement. She said the statement should be specific and include everyone- genders, gender identities, race, religion, pointing to the college of liberal arts as an example.
“So first, if we want to do that, for this community, let’s put it in writing that we accept them,” Hernandez-Bravo said.
She said they are pushing for other rights on campus as well.
“So, little steps,” Hernandez-Bravo said. “The other thing we are doing is gender neutral bathrooms. Last year we fought, we only got in two buildings, so we are continuing to fight this year to get it in every building”
The LGBTQIA+ community on campus has grown over the years and Hernandez-Bravo said it started with only a few members. She says on April 26th from 11 -2 pm in the student quad, there is a Day of Silence, a large event that raises awareness of discrimination the LGBT community faces.
Things are evolving across the United States as well. On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal. Most recently, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia legislature to the House of Delegates.
People can be supportive by being kind, taking a stand against bullying and being supportive.
“They just need to be accepting of everyone, frankly, I mean we’re all human, we have our own wants and needs that aren’t just about who we’re attracted to or how we dress or identify as,” said Pride Alliance/Saddleback College student Gwynn Van Houten. “ I think we make it so much more complicated than it is. I mean it shouldn’t be an issue, so just be loving, we’re all human.”