Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

“Oh my God, that is so gay.”How many times a day does a student or faculty member hear that? According to Homophobia: Overcoming Stereotypes which took place in Sykes ballroom on November 16th, gay is used to describe a man who feels sexual desire or emotional attraction to another male. Gay, however, seems to be unconsciously thrown into conversation about something uncool or wrong.

This was the Social Equity Department’s second roundtable event, which included over 120 participants that ranged from faculty to students. Directed by Ms. Racheleen Dashield and co-moderators Dr. Eli DeHope and Dr. Rodney Mader, this participant orientated program was put together in order to discuss issues, like homophobia, on campus.

After the opening remarks, a video was shown of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Association (LGBTA) about homophobia. In the video, Lisa Gentle, a sophomore and English Major at West Chester University, said there is “hostility because they [heterosexuals] don’t understand what gay is.” This certainly seemed to be the case since senior Allen Rinehart, a Marketing Major at WCU, said, “It’s hard to understand; I’m not gay.”

Following the video, there was discussion time, in which each table was given the same set of questions to talk about. Then, each table was asked to present their top two ideas about how to affirm dignity of every student on campus regardless of sexual orientation.

The focus groups that took place at the tables were very beneficial. People got to voice their opinion without feeling any sense of fear or regret. The group guidelines ensured that every person got to speak and listen.

The open discussion gave voiceto every person in the room, because like Dr. Eli DeHope said, “Our purpose is to feel welcome,” which is exactly what the Social Equity Department did.

Each table had a facilitator, recorder and people to discuss the questions. The facilitator’s job was to mediate the table with questions provided in everyone’s packet. The recorder’s job, on the other hand, wrote commentary on what was being said in the group. Tom Tolin, a recorder, economics professor and cochair of the LGBTA, referred to programs like this as a help to “create safer, more respectful climate for everyone….the more people understand, the less they’re afraid.”

Discussion lasted about 30 minutes followed by each group’s presentation of their top two ideas. Out of fifteen groups, the most tactics to improve worth and dignity were to respect others, implement either mandatory or voluntary courses on diversity and LBGTA topics and take the Ally. Ally is an organization for heterosexual people who are concerned for the well-being of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgenders, and the service is offered by LGBTA. This program is opened to faculty as well as students. For more information call 610-436-3351 or visit http://iws.wcupa.edu/lgbta.

With new found information, people left the program more educated. Leonard Kelly, a member of WCU’s theater department said, “Knowledge is important, especially to faculty to keep themselves educated, so they can be better educators.”

Knowledge and education are the first steps to becoming more understanding on the topic of homophobia. As it says on the bumper stickers, “Homophobia is a social disease.

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