Dear Gay and Straight ERAU Students,
I’ve been involved in many efforts on this campus to encourage respectful treatment of others. This article isn’t really about that; it’s about wanting to make sure that gay students on this campus know that they aren’t alone, which is especially important given the current cultural climate in which depression and suicide among gay youth have reached epidemic proportions.
P.R.I.D.E.! (a club on campus for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning students and their straight allies) created a business card that includes information about the club and the statement, “You are not alone at ERAU.”
This week, a gay member of P.R.I.D.E.! saw one of those cards on the ground at the library’s entrance, picked it up, and realized that someone had blacked out everything except the club’s rainbow-and-eagle logo such that the card now read, “You are alone at ERAU.”
Yes, it’s just a card. It’s easy enough to shake off small things that are a result of small minds. Although it is actually a symptom of a much larger problem, I’m not going to focus on a “wrong doing”; I’m focusing on an utter inaccuracy.
Although the gay student who found the card did feel, in that moment, unwelcome on this campus, he also knows that he is NOT alone. Not even close. A common mantra in the gay rights movement is “We’re here and we’re queer” because an invisible identity group has no agency.
Gay students, staff, and faculty are most certainly here at Embry-Riddle—in higher numbers than some people might think. And straight allies are all over the place, too, though I encourage more of them to “come out” in support of LGBTQ people.
Genuine support, acceptance, and community are offered by many individuals, by the student club P.R.I.D.E.!, and by offices (including but not limited to the Women’s Center, Office of Diversity Initiatives, Counseling Center, Dean of Students Office, and Chaplain’s Office). Once the closet door is open, all of that light can get in.
We shouldn’t be naïve enough to whine, “Why can’t we all just get along?” But we should also refuse to whimper, “It is what it is.” I encourage straight students who know that “gay is okay” to make their presence known.
To any LGBTQ student who feels alone on this campus, I say this: Honey, it just ain’t so. If nothing else, drop me an email. I know LOTS of people you should meet.
As for the P.R.I.D.E.! members, don’t worry. They have plenty of their cards to go around, and they’ll continue to distribute them with profound hope.
Dr. Libbie Searcy