New support groups to reach LGBTQ community

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    The Gay-Straight Alliance has created three new subgroups to reach a broader base of student needs, said a representative from GSA.

    GSA President Carter Gilbert, a senior criminal justice and theater production major, said the new subgroups Quest, Hope on Campus and the activities planning committee appealed to members who wanted some aspect of the GSA.

    Quest is a support group for closeted members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community, Gilbert said. Hope on Campus is a non-affiliated youth group that focused on how sexuality affected spirituality. The activities planning committee focuses on activism on and off-campus.

    Skye Newkirk, a junior social work major and Quest student coordinator, said Quest was a baby step to GSA for closeted students who do not attend regular meetings to avoid the “gay label.” She said it provided an opportunity for people “to be involved with a group without having to be ‘out’ with a group.”

    “We just want to make sure that we create a safe environment for students who are having difficulty with their sexual orientation to find a source of support,” she said.

    Newkirk said the location of Quest meetings was secret to ensure confidentiality among members.

    Brooke LeBleu, a junior theater major and Hope on Campus student coordinator, said that while many campus religious organizations are accepting of LGBTQ members, there was not a group that focused on how sexual orientation related to religion.

    Beau Heyen, minister for youth and spiritual formation at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas and contributor to Hope on Campus group, said he helped initiate the creation of a youth group through various talks with GSA members. He and GSA members established the youth group at the end of last semester. He said the group allows members to dissect what they were taught, share negative experiences from churches and live out who they are in faith, life and love.

    “What we’re allowing them to do is have a place to talk about that, to talk about how God still loves them,” Heyen said. “That’s who they are, and they can still contribute just as much as anyone else to their faith community.”

    Heyen said the university was the model for other schools because the GSA embraced the idea of the youth group. Heyen said he helped establish other youth groups on other campuses. The University of North Texas was the only other university that currently has a Hope on Campus in place, he said. The University of Texas at Arlington will follow this semester, Heyen said.

    Julian Arredondo, a junior theater-acting major and GSA member, said that even though a spiritual connection is important, it was still missing from people’s lives.

    “It’s a different perspective in saying God still loves you; you are a child of God,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. You are still worthy. You are still valuable. You are still a person.”

    Gilbert said the talk of a resource center last year made the GSA think about what students need. The addition of these subgroups was the solution.

    “The GSA is the resource center,” Gilbert said. “And that’s why we will facilitate the subgroups and we will meet different people’s needs to encompass everything that is needed on this campus.”

    Gilbert said the GSA and its subgroups were open to members and supporters of the LGBTQ community. He said the benefits of an actual resource center would be great in the future.

    “We can do it,” Gilbert said. “We can be what people need.”

    Those interested in attending Quest meetings can send an e-mail to the GSA at [email protected]