LGBT Center, Greek Life advocate transgender awareness
According to a 2011 Campus Climate Survey, a combination of heterosexism and homophobia was the second largest issue on Grand Valley State University’s campus.
Colette Seguin-Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said that despite this issue and the fact that there is no option for transgender students to identify themselves as such on official paperwork, “GVSU has the largest self-identifying trans population they have seen in over 150 Campus Climate Surveys across the nation.”
This is partly due to the efforts of the LGBT Resource Center and other campus organizations to increase inclusiveness and educate the community about transgender students. One of these initiatives, the Greek Allies and Advocates training sessions, is geared toward GVSU’s Greek communities, which are generally split based on sex.
Seguin-Beighley said these sessions were created to establish a relationship between the LGBTQ community and Greek Life and to foster a more accepting environment. She added that 22 chapters have participated in the training so far.
Alpha Sigma Tau is one sorority that has been involved in the Greek Allies and Advocates training program. Margie Munoz has been a member of Alpha Sigma Tau for three years and is now the director of Panhellenic Affairs.
Munoz said she is directly involved in the LGBT Resource Center, speaking at council meetings and participating in its programs. She was trained to be an ally last winter and said about 30 active members of the sorority have been trained.
“I have been working on creating a bridge between the LGBT community and Greek Life,” Munoz said. “We want to be as inclusive as possible. The goals of the training are to introduce terminology and expand awareness of the LGBT community and Greek Allies and Advocates.”
Although Munoz said that there can be problems with blending transgender students into organizations divided by gender, she said transgender members of Alpha Sigma Tau have not experienced many. She added that the sorority will continue its connection with the LGBT Center to expand awareness and become more inclusive.
One way to do this is through the requirement that every active member of the sorority attend one LGBT event during the year.
“As a chapter, I know that we would be fully accepting of any sister that joined, regardless of their gender identity,” Munoz said. “We live in a very binary-based society, and until we begin to make changes in our resources, public spaces and relationships with peers, we will not achieve full inclusion.”
Leslie Boker, a senior at GVSU, is the president of Out ‘N’ About, a student organization that is also involved with the Greek ally training.
“I was trained by the LGBT Resource Center to have broad knowledge of the center’s position on various LGBT topics, on top of my own experience as a queer and gender-variant person,” Boker said.
Boker added that the Greek Allies and Advocates program is important because it allows “GVSU community members to get a general understanding of LGBT issues and the ability to interact effectively with and understand the needs of LGBT individuals in your organization.”
Out ‘N’ About aims to continue its link with Greek life and expand the support system through the LGBT community building. “Most problems for trans students stem from the lack of understanding from others, so educating yourself is the best thing you can do,” Boker said.
The LGBT Resource Center will host Dean Spade, a well-known trans scholar, on Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.
For more information about the LGBT Resources Center and its programs, visit www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc.