Finding Common Ground

Whether you’re in the closet, or out and proud, Temple offers men and women of all sexual orientations opportunities to make friends, get counseling, stay healthy and be safe. Senior Tom Armstrong is the president

Whether you’re in the closet, or out and proud, Temple offers men and women of all sexual orientations opportunities to make friends, get counseling, stay healthy and be safe.

Senior Tom Armstrong is the president of Common Ground, an organization that brings together both gay and straight students wanting to promote a campus friendly to people of all sexual orientations.

“The goal of Common Ground is to provide a forum for an alliance between Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered students and their straight allies,” Armstrong said.

“Our events range from educational, like the safe sex/history workshops, to activist, including National Coming Out Day, to social, which includes the Queer Prom and movie or club nights.”

Common Ground formed as a result of the merging of two previously operating organizations: Temple Lambda Alliance, and Students and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Temple Lambda Alliance was founded in the 1970s, while S-FLAG came into existence in the late 1990s.

While Lambda was comprised primarily of gay members, S-FLAG had straight members and supporters of LGBT.

In spring 2004, Temple Lambda Alliance and S-FLAG merged to form Common Ground.

Armstrong was president of Lambda for three years before leading Common Ground. He said the organization has made substantial progress with its membership, quality of events and its ability to generate its own funds.

“As a part of our mission, we strive to provide a safe space to students who may be struggling with their own identities,” Armstrong said. In addition to groups like Common Ground, the university offers a variety of health and safety programs for gay and straight students. Tuttleman Counseling Services gives students the opportunity to get counseling for any emotional or mental needs.

Michael Hanowitz, coordinator of Sexual Assault Counseling and Education, said SACE offers a gay men’s support group and sponsors the Queer Café.

The men’s support group is open to gay, bisexual and questioning men, to help students deal with issues like dating and sexuality, according to Hanowitz.

The Queer Café, Oct. 19, in the Owl Cove, will bring together gay and lesbian men and women and their friends, along with 20 representative community interest and support groups, including the Philadelphia Gay Men’s rugby team.

“It has turned into a social event, but it is meant to help people who are coming out, or new to Temple,” Hanowitz said. Hanowitz said 300 students showed up last year and the event is held in October “because we feel students are settling in and looking for new friends [then].”

Temple is not the only institution that offers programs for the LGBT community. Swarthmore College’s Queer Union sponsors workshops, luncheons, speakers and open meetings year-round.

The LGBT Center at the University of Pennsylvania offers support groups and health-related initiatives for students, faculty and staff members. Pennsylvania State University features Undertones, a group created to offer support to minority students that are gay, lesbian, or transgendered.

For more information on Common Ground, contact Tom Armstrong at toma@temple.edu or visit the organization’s Web site at www.temple.edu/cg. Call Tuttleman Counseling Services at (215) 204 -7276 or visit the bottom floor of Sullivan Hall.

Marta Rusek can be reached at mrusek@temple.edu.

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