The Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and the Inclusiveness & Intercultural Services (IIS) office partnered to plan events that raise awareness about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community throughout October, LGBT History Month.
IIS Assistant Director April Brown said she wanted students to have a hand in planning the events this year.
“One of the things I feel is important is, with any month, most of it be student-driven because who we’re trying to reach are students,” she said. “Yes, we want to reach faculty and staff, but we really want student involvement.”
One of the events, an inclusiveness luncheon, is intended to educate and to build community, Brown said.
Another way IIS helps support the LGBT community is through Safe Zone training, a program that covers terminology, addresses educational components and takes questions from individuals who may not be familiar with the LGBT community, Brown said.
The presentation also gives participants a chance to train as allies, which are straight individuals who support the LGBT population, she said.
First-year psychology major Emily Tall is a member of GSA and an ally.
“I had a lot of friends growing up who were gay and who knew they were gay from a very young age, and I just didn’t ever think anything of it,” she said. “As I got older, I realized how intolerant some people were, and I decided to stand up and fight for LGBT rights. That’s why I’m an ally.”
As an ally, Tall said her friends questioned her decision to attend a Christian university.
“I think a lot of people are surprised to see how accepting TCU is,” she said.
One of last year’s events involved a board in the library where students could write and post encouraging messages to the LGBT community.
Brown said she feared some individuals might use the board as an opportunity to write hateful messages instead, but that didn’t happen and they plan to replicate the experience again this year.
From what she has seen, Brown said she believes the university fosters a very supportive environment for LGBT students.
“We have had staff members that have been advisers for GSA,” she said. “So if you’re the adviser for that organization and you’re in a department, then people recognize that there’s a support system there.”
While Tall said she believes Americans have generally become more accepting of the LGBT community in recent years, she also said it’s important to understand the history of how the nation made those strides.
“Without such great leaders like Harvey Milk to pave the way for us now, we wouldn’t be where we are now,” she said.
And while LGBT History Month only comes around once a year, its lessons should remain, Brown said.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is from September to October, but for me, that culture exists all the time,” she said. “The same with LGBTQ awareness month and the history of it. I don’t condense it just into that month. I’m constantly learning every day.”