Many schools are working to increase inclusion for students and faculty within LGBTQ+ communities. At LBCC, there are student groups and instructors committed to promoting equality on campus.
Instructor Tim Black, advisor to the LBCC GSA, or Gender and Sexuality Alliance, said the mission of the GSA is to “provide our LGBTQ+ students with a space to discuss matters pertaining to identity and education while promoting tolerance and unity throughout our campus and community.”
“It is very important to have the GSA on campus. Aside from the visibility the club brings to the LGBTQ+ community, we also support all students by providing safer-sex items and menstrual pads to those in need.” said Black.
While organizations such as the GSA take a broader approach with helping the student body, there are individuals on campus taking steps under their own direction to address the marginalization of LGBTQ+ people.
Karelia Stetz-Waters, Linn-Benton English department chair, is among those instructors who strive to make their classes inclusive and respectful to all people. She has each student introduce themselves and state their preferred gender pronoun at the onset of every term.
“Asking students to share their preferred pronoun is a good way to let transgender students know that they’re welcome, and that I respect their gender,” Said Stetz-Waters. I want to get it right, and it’s a way to raise awareness because a lot of people aren’t familiar with, or don’t know anyone who’s transgender, yet.”
Many LGBTQ+ advocates say that asking people their preferred gender pronouns is a good first step in respecting identities within the LGBTQ+ communities, but feel instituting it as standard practice will not address underlying issues.
“I wouldn’t want someone to be forced to ask for pronouns, and then not know how to have the conversation that comes afterwards; or not be able to articulate why they were doing that; or not want to, and resent it, and have that fuel some bias,” said Stetz-Waters.
“Get a new faculty position made to help LGBTQ+ students, and get training out to student leaders, and work study positions on campus cultural competency to improve student life directly,” said Poklemba.
Many schools have faculty positions dedicated to assisting LGBTQ+ community members and raising awareness. University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Southern Oregon University all have staff positions to help LGBTQ+ students; Southern Oregon University even offers specific student housing options that are gender-inclusive.
While advocates agree there’s no clear blueprint for increasing inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in schools, many say there’s already a number of actions proven to move campuses closer to that goal. From access to gender-neutral bathrooms to information campaigns; from basic resources to staff positions, advocates believe there are many steps to be taken.
Story by Kevin Rambo
Photo by Elliot Pond