GLBT makes progress, not yet united with the student body

Columnist Brandon Baker encourages the GLBT community at Temple to open a dialogue as a means to integrate with campus and create a safe haven.

On my way back to Philadelphia a few weeks ago, I found myself deep in contemplation as I sat in my wannabe-airplane-style Amtrak train seat. A pair of lights above me flickered, breaking my stream of consciousness and making me alert to the fact that all the lights on the train had dimmed.

Naturally, being the optimistic person I am, my mind immediately braced for the train destabilizing and crashing into a tree, setting the entire train ablaze with me inside of it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead the train came to a halt, the cabin went pitch black, and the 20 or so passengers on the train squirmed in their seats, trying to understand why they were so inconvenienced.

Our only reassurance of safety came from an employee messenger that had the smarts to come through the aisle once and tell us that the Amtrak staff was in the process of “fixing the solution.” Think about that.

But I digress. As the minutes passed by and the virtual silence of the cabin began to fade, I took notice that my fellow stranded were pulling a Flight 93, joining together to “fix the solution” themselves.

The observant and somewhat nosy side of me couldn’t help but notice that the people around me were legitimately bonding over an experience that was, for a brief period of time, rather frightening. It was refreshing to see that it took a pseudo-disaster to get a group of people, who would have otherwise sat in silence fiddling with their iPhones, in communication with one another.

My point is this: though as a society we’re taught to avoid communicating with other groups and to keep to ourselves for feelings of “appropriateness,” social groups and people in general are not actually as different from one another as many would like to believe.

As sure as this remains true in the case of a stranded Amtrak train, this remains just as – if not more – true in a community as diverse and multi-faceted as Temple’s.

I spent some time considering what I would like readers to take away from QChat this year, and ultimately, I want QChat to be just that: a chat. But conversations are rarely interesting with the perspective of a select few, which is why I hope to create an open dialogue this academic year between myself, Temple’s thriving GLBT community and the numerous corresponding communities whose gaps still need to be bridged.

The GLBT community at Temple has made wonderful progress in the past few years in becoming integrated with the rest of campus, but I fear that the “them and us” mentality still persists even with the plethora of GLBT-friendly programs and organizations with a presence on campus.

Perhaps what the GLBT community needs isn’t an organization to serve as a safe haven, but a means to make the entire campus a safe haven for GLBT and other groups that don’t feel as included as they should.

I urge you to use this column’s platform as an advantage in the coming months by allowing me to make your voice heard. Communication and open dialogue are the first steps to truly integrating a segregated and socially disconnected community.

It is time to recognize the interconnections between Temple’s many communities, and demolish those walls that stand in the way of simple but honest conversation.

Brandon Baker can be reached at brandon.baker@temple.edu.

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