For a majority of the population, February 14th is a day meant to symbolize our love and commitment to that special someone who fills our life with joy. This generally holds true for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Unfortunately, our expressions of love are often silenced by the heterosexism we experience in our day to day lives.
Whether it’s holding back from holding hands while walking down the street, having a dinner together in instead of going out on the town, or sharing a kiss in the shadows instead of under a streetlight; LGBT people are pressured by society to restrain their romantic expressions to the point of invisibility.
When was the last time you saw an LGBT couple exchanging any affection in public? How did you feel when you saw it? Whether it’s direct or perceived, the fear of being attacked for “flaunting their sexuality” is present in the minds of many LGBT individuals, even those who would describe themselves as fully out and comfortable with their identity.
This Valentine’s Day, when you’re sharing a moment with your loved one, remember those who are too afraid to share the same expressions with the rest of the world and take a moment to reaffirm your support of your LGBT friends and peers. Help reclaim Valentine’s Day as in inclusive holiday by making sure you use gender neutral language, like “partner” or “significant other” to refer your loved one. If you see an LGBT couple, don’t stare . . . smile! As a university, if we are working together to dismantle heterosexism bit by bit, shouldn’t we start with the holiday that celebrates it? Hopefully, one day all LGBT individuals will be able to experience Valentine's Day to the same extent as their straight peers.
Guest blogger: David Jaques, Graduate Assistant, LGBT Resource Center
The Arcus Foundation of Kalamazoo has awarded a $150,000 grant to Grand Valley’s LGBT Resource Center to enhance its social justice training efforts, build statewide resources and increase community collaborations and partnerships.
The 20-month grant will start in January and continue through August 2011. Colette Seguin Beighley, LGBT Resource Center assistant director, said the purpose of the grant is two-fold. "We wanted to enhance our efforts to build student leaders who are civically engaged and include the greater Grand Rapids community in that effort," Seguin Beighley said.
The center will use part of the grant to fund a six-session Social Justice Training Series that would bring in nationally known speakers to train participants in effective advocacy. Other plans for grant monies are detailed below:
• Create statewide consortiums for both LGBT college centers and LGBT faculty and staff associations to share resources and create a unified voice for policy changes. The consortium for state LGBT centers would be co-hosted by GVSU's LGBT Resource Center and the University of Michigan's Spectrum Center.
• Partner with Grand Rapids Community Media Center's Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids to sponsor LGBT Monthly Film Series; collaborate with WGVU for programming during LGBT History Month (October); and collaborate with Grand Valley’s theater department to produce “Coming Out Monologues.”
• Hire a graduate assistant to support programming efforts.
• Send staff members and student leaders to national higher education conferences for networking, presentations and advocacy.
Johnny Jenkins, program officer at Arcus Foundation, said the grant comes from the foundation's Michigan LGBT Rights Program. "Our ultimate goal is to advance rights for the LGBT community in Michigan," Jenkins said. "GVSU and the LGBT Resource Center have stepped up to the plate and have served as a tremendous resource in West Michigan."
Seguin Beighley said the Arcus Foundation grant greatly helps support Grand Valley’s diversity efforts. "We’re so appreciative of the faith Arcus Foundation has in our center and our university," she said.
The term transgender remains steeped in misconceptions, stigma, and ignorance. At the same time, people who don't necessarily conform to traditional gender stereotypes have never been more visible or active.
Two Skinned Knees and a Declaration of Independence
As a little girl, I constantly had skinned knees. My crashing and burning took many forms and I was sure that when I grew up I would carry hideous scars from my misadventures. I've recently had some skinned knees of a different sort.
Many of you know that at the beginning of Summer '08, my 27-year relationship ended. Suddenly my life had a completely different context. As I made my way through the labyrinth of newness, there was much to learn and once again the possibility of crashing and burning existed at every turn. Risk of skinned knees: HIGH.
While some of these skinned knees can be devastating, others have been northern stars for me. Case in point: You learn much about yourself living on your own. I did anyway. One of the things I learned, as basic and absurd as it sounds, was that I did not know how to make coffee. I limped along for 8 1/2 months mainlining each morning at our local coffee house. Then a very special person sent me a gift box of Peet's coffee. (Peet's -- Berkeley, CA -- is a beloved Bay Area treasure). I stared at that box. The best coffee in the world must be consumed. This was a defining moment. I had to learn how to make coffee.
I went out and bought a coffee maker that does it all (or so I thought). It grinds the beans, has a timer, and looks hot -- the Testarosa of coffee makers!
Now I'm not one to read directions. I mostly just charge forward (hence the skinned knees, I suppose). But this time, I sat down and read the how-to manual cover to cover. I cleaned up the coffee maker, set the clock, and set the timer. I kept the book on the counter all week as I attempted to climb this Mt. Everest of skill sets.
Day One: Not bad. Good coffee. A little weak. (Note to self: Add more beans.) Day Two: Still weak. Maybe, weaker than yesterday. (Note to self: This is tricky business.) Day Three: Something's wrong. This is bad coffee. (Note to self: RED ALERT! I'm wasting my Peet's coffee!)
Revelation (aka: skinned knee #1): You have to EMPTY the grounds from the filter each day.
When I finally figured this out and opened the magic door behind which the filter hides, coffee grounds poured out everywhere! This was very embarrassing to me and, in fact, the is the first time I've admitted what I perceived as my incompetence. I cleaned up the mess and learned more about the process of coffee making.
All went well for the next eight months... until this morning.
Last month in Seattle, friends gave me some Seattle coffee -- not whole beans as I'm used to but ground coffee. Being out of whole beans this morning, I decided to brew a pot Seattle-style. I carefully measured, waited, and then poured the first cup. It was water.
Revelation (aka: skinned knee #2): I had put the grounds in the grinder instead of directly into the filter!
As I juggled hot coffee maker parts to correct this error, I thought, "I'm not going to be embarrassed or beat myself up. I'm learning." Noted child development psychologist Jean Piaget said, "A child's mistakes are natural steps to understanding." I think this piece of wisdom is true for all ages. It certainly is for me. I hope to always be trying to understand more and more and that means making mistakes. I also hope that I am kind to myself when, as a natural step to understanding, I fall once again and skin my knees.
My coffee escapades have been a pretty good word picture of the tricky navigation the past year and a half has presented. Now, 18 months later and at a view of 30,000 feet, I see things differently. I see skinned knees as a badge of courage. And I realize that, almost always, the scars fade away and only the adventure, the memory, and the understanding remains.
The LGBT Resource Center kicks off our fall programming with the first of our OnGoing LGBT Conferences this Monday, September 21. We are thrilled to have Sean Kosofsky joining us to talk about "The Queer State of the Union"! I guarantee Sean will rock the house as he brings us up to speed on LGBT politics!
Much has happened at the state and national level since Obama's inauguration. Sean will be discussing issues impacting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and taking your questions as well!
This spring the LGBT Resource Center updated Grand Valley's LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index profile. The goal of this national assessment tool is to help create respectful and welcoming environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, faculty and staff as well as their allies. Fourteen different campus offices participated in this evaluation.
We are happy to report that,
as a result of recent policy changes at GVSU,
our campus has moved up in rank
from 3 of 5 stars to 4.5 stars of 5 stars!
We can be very proud of our 4.5 star rating. Only 18 campuses across the nation have achieved 5 of 5 stars. We are confident Grand Valley State University will be among the next to receive a 5 of 5 star rating.
The Grand Valley LGBT Resource Center is happy to participate in this national assessment in an effort to continue to look for ways our campus can provide the safest, most supportive and welcoming environment for our LGBT students, faculty and staff.
While this evaluation process served to update how we currently rank after significant policy changes such as our household member benefits and expanded EEO policy, it also served as a consciousness-raising tool to continue to make explicit ways in which we can constantly improve and better meet the needs of our LGBT faculty, staff and students as we pursue our continued commitment to a fully-inclusive campus.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area in the 60s, I have experienced that social change is not only possible but imperative. As the mother of four children -- one of whom is gay -- I take my participation in that change very seriously.