GVSU 'Out List' promotes solidarity to LGBT youth
Whether it is finding community among peers or cultivating a mentorship, connections based on common ground and lived experiences play a significant role in gaining comfort in one’s personal identity.
For this reason, Grand Valley State University has created an “Out List,” a collection of faculty and staff who openly identify as part of the LGBT community.
Officials in the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center said the list can be used as a source of empowerment for GVSU students who identify within the community looking forward into professional life.
“It's important for LGBTQIA college students to see themselves in the professional world,” said Marla Wick, assistant director in the center. “The Out List is comprised of people who are actively modeling what it means to be out about their identities in the workplace.”
The list may operate as a means of forming a sense of comradery and personal safety for LGBT students entering the post-collegiate working world.
“The LGBTQIA faculty and staff listed in the Out List model for students the possibility and reality of being an openly out professional,” said Jen Hsu-Bishop, director of the LGBT Center.
Both Wick and Hsu-Bishop related its importance to a lack of state-mandated protections for people in the workplace who identify within the community.
“LGBTQIA college students have to think about how and whether to be out in the workplace, depending on a number of factors and beginning with considerations of personal safety,” Wick said. “The Out List provides these students, as well as other faculty and staff, with a visible community of people, many of whom will have navigated similar experiences.”
A collaboration between the GVSU Division of Inclusion and Equity and the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association, the Out List may strengthen the message of inclusion on GVSU’s campus.
“The list reflects and aligns with GVSU’s commitment to identifying and eliminating barriers to recruit and retain diverse students, faculty and staff,” Hsu-Bishop said. “The Out List highlights and makes visible the many LGBTQIA professionals who are part of the diverse fabric of our university’s community.”
Although the GVSU Out List is not the first to be created on a college campus, it is said to offer the potential to become a source of community and perceptibility on other campuses state-wide and across the country.
“Such lists have existed at other campuses across the nation for some time. But, again, one of the challenges our community faces is visibility,” Wick said.
Ultimately, Wick said the list promotes visibility and solidarity while acting both as a source of strength and mentorship for the LGBT community, and acts as evidence for people who question the need for LGBT advocacy.
“GVSU's vision of inclusion and equity is unequivocal about the need to support and advocate for marginalized communities, and the Out List helps make visible a community that can be otherwise difficult to see,” said Wick.
To view the Out List or add yourself to it, visit gvsu.edu/outlist.