LGBT workshop creates opportunities for allies on campus

The LGBT Task Force held its first workshop Thursday evening for students who want to become allies to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The workshop, facilitated by UK Community Ally Network, was a part of a continuing series presented by the Office of Student Involvement and its diversity education and community building program.

Its purpose is “to provide people, who are interested in being an ally to LGBT people, with a physical way to do that, as well as have tools and resources to do so,” said Eric Morrow, the chair of the task force.

Wanda McCants, co-facilitator of the workshop, led Thursday’s group in exercises that addressed politically correct terminology, ideas about privilege and oppression, and where people are in terms of identity.

“This is important because heterosexism and homophobia is everyone’s problem,” McCants said. “It’s not just something LGBT people have to deal with. It affects their families, friends and co-workers. This is why you should care.”

Morrow said the Task Force was created to act as a liason for members of the LGBT community and the resources its members may not know about on campus, such as OUTsource and the Gay-Straight Alliance.

“There’s always a continuing coming-out process because it’s not always necessarily that there’s a visible identity in our society for anyone who identifies as LGBT,” Morrow said. “You basically have to tell people constantly that you don’t identify with what is assumed to be normal. There’s a lot of stress that comes along with that.”

Morrow said he hopes hearing about the new program and seeing stickers around campus will provide some comfort for students who deal with discrimination, harassment or underrepresentation in classes and on campus.

“It’s important to have the opportunity to examine these issues in a safe environment,” Morrow said.

Robert Odom, a graduate assistant in the student involvement office, said the workshop with the LGBT Task Force and UKCAN is a part of a continuing series that will highlight a number of identities, including those with ethnic, socioeconomic and gender-based issues.

“In these workshops we want to create a safe place for students to come and just talk about it,” Odom said. “It’s scary to talk about race when you’re white. Here you can say the wrong word, and we’ll help you and tell you the proper word to use.”

Odom said his office is planning another workshop in November and two more in the spring. He wants to bring in a community activist and eventually a national activist to talk about issues affecting “oppressed” groups.

“It’s about inclusion in UK leadership and creating safe zones within their area of influence,” Odom said. “The world is changing and we don’t want Kentucky students to be left behind.”

Students who would like to get involved with the LGBT Task Force can contact Morrow or Steven Oliver. Students who want to learn more about the continuing series can contact Odom.

“It really comes down to understanding how to better support one another,” Morrow said. “We’re a family at UK.”