On Dec. 1, students gathered in the Student Center to discuss current issues facing the GLBT population on Main Campus and in the nation.
On Dec. 1, Queer Student Union and the College Democrats held a panel discussion in the Student Center to discuss the role that politics plays in the GLBT community, ranging from the importance of youth participation to the need for gender neutral bathrooms at Temple.
“We were looking at something that would be educational and we’ve been talking about doing this with QSU because a lot of our members intersect, so it was just something that we’ve been talking about for a really long time,” Holly Genovese, events coordinator for the Temple College Democrats and junior history and political science major, said. “We felt it was really important because it focuses on educating people about issues that they might not know exist.”
The seven panel members began the discussion by talking about how to get involved in changing GLBT legislation in Pennsylvania.
“Everyone in this room needs to know their state legislators in Harrisburg and visit them six times and tell them quite frankly about this,” Ted Martin, executive director for Equality Pennsylvania, said. “[In] 70 percent of Pennsylvania it’s still perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay, most state legislators don’t know that.”
Martin urged the audience to help pass local ordinances that tackle the issue of discrimination.
“The ordinances serve to do what Harrisburg has failed to do, which is take up this issue,” Martin said. “So, work together with your local elected officials [and] work to pass an ordinance.”
A substantial portion of the discussion, which lasted more than an hour, focused on incorporating the youth into the debate and persuading them to get involved.
“A big part of getting policies [passed] today is using the youth,” Connor Hesketh, Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition regional chair and senior secondary education major, said.
“Youth is the new power, the new movement in our culture. We need to teach our students in high school and middle school how to get active in government instead of just pulling a lever,” Hesketh added.
Along with GLBT issues facing Pennsylvania, the panel also focused on issues faced by GLBT students at Temple. Mainly, members of the panel harped on the need for gender neutral bathrooms to serve transsexual students and faculty at Temple.
“You have thousands of students who are actually signing these petitions and really advocating for transsexual students, advocating for people who say ‘I don’t really feel comfortable using the men’s bathroom because I don’t necessarily identify as a man or I don’t identify as a woman so why do I have to use the women’s bathroom just because my driver’s license says one thing?’” Hesketh said.
Hesketh added that this movement has support from the student body, but it has not yet been implemented.
“It’s just such a funny thing because so many students are behind this, and yet we can’t just say it’s done, we’re going to get it done, we’re starting renovations now, it will be done by this date,” Hesketh said.
For Margaux Cowden, a women’s studies professor, progressing with GLBT ideas is a matter of keeping the issues in the conversation.
“Often when we discuss gender neutral bathrooms in my classes, students just never had thought about it,” Cowden said. “Really, just having a conversation about it all the time [is effective].”
Martin added to this and said that keeping GLBT issues in the conversation involves a constant transfer to younger students from year to year.
“College students are transient. You guys are here for four years and then you keep moving on, so seniors need to create freshmen so it continues as a constant pressure,” Martin said.
One of the problems audience members noted was low attendance.
“I definitely feel like it would have been a little more successful if the room had been filled,” junior psychology major and GLBT minor Francisco Zavala said.
Although the room was not full, students still showed their support of the ideas and the goal of the panel.
“I’m an ally to the GLBT community, but I mean these are things that I think are going to progress and they’re only going to progress if we get involved,” said university studies major Kelly Lucas.
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full disclosure: Luis Rodriguez was a member of the panel. Rodriguez is the Multimedia Editor at The Temple News.