A few weeks ago a fellow student and co-worker of mine in the University Services Building, mentioned to me that he wanted to file a sexual harassment suit because a rainbow flag in the lobby made him feel uncomfortable.
He said that the workplace is no place for sexual orientation to be displayed.
Yet, in this same office heterosexual people talk about their plans for marriage, a sacrament that is unavailable to gays and lesbians.
Even if my co-worker was speaking in jest, he raised some very important issues. Gays and lesbians in many places are still forced to be silent, living in fear of losing their jobs should they ever be outed.
Even in places that are more accepting, many people do not enjoy equal rights because of their sexual orientation or gender status.
In this enlightened academic environment, I would hope that gay, lesbian, transgender and intersexed people should not need to have the same fears. Unfortunately, I have heard similar comments from other Temple students.
Temple is a university that celebrates its diversity, and everyone here is in some way a minority.
Students come here hoping to be accepted no matter who they are, and to learn and expand their scope on life. It is not possible to fully benefit from the Temple experience without keeping an open mind and allowing our beliefs and preconceptions about each other to go unchallenged.
This week, from Feb. 11 through Feb. 16, is Temple University’s Respect Week. During this week, students and faculty are encouraged to discuss issues of diversity. A variety of discussion forums are being hosted, and this is an excellent time for students and faculty to learn from each other and help wipe out intolerance.
After hearing my co-workers’ sentiment, I went down to the lobby and examined the rainbow flag that he had issue with.
The flag in question was in fact a three-and-a-half-inch by five-inch sticker included in a display by the Temple American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). That same display also included slogans championing equal pay for women, unionized labor, childcare, peace and justice.
To feel threatened by a rainbow of that size is just as ridiculous as feeling disgusted by making eye contact with a gay person.
A rainbow might make you happy, but it will not turn you gay, and neither will eye contact.
Openly showing signs of acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people harms no one. Such signs of acceptance and support are necessary because, as my co-worker and other students have demonstrated, there are still people who need to learn to tolerate and respect one another.