Academic settings and LGBTQ+ Allyship

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Academic settings and LGBTQ+ Allyship

Why is Allyship important for Tri-C? 

Lambda Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) had its start at Tri-C in spring 2004 and is responsible for administering Safe Zone training and providing materials to the Tri-C community. The goal of Lambda GSA is to create a safe and accepting environment by educating the public on LGBTQ+ issues and how to work against intolerance and prejudice. The Safe Zone training is available on the Tri-C website for free under the Administrative Departments’ diversity tab. The 2-hour workshop teaches students and staff about topics relating to LGBTQ+ identity and the issues facing the community. Kellee Ellis (she/her/hers) is a counselor at the Westshore campus, part of the Gender Alliance club, and one of the college-wide coordinators for Safe Zone. She explains her passion for the project after having worked at a domestic abuse shelter.

“I watched all these different groups of folks identified LGBTQ+ that couldn’t even get access to a basic human right which is safety.” Providing the basic human right of safety is what drives people like Ellis to be allies. Lambda GSA prevents the breakage of title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which declares that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. This includes protection from sexual harassment.”

Ellis explains how retention is important for colleges and by having a GSA on campus, not only is the college following the guidelines of Title IX of the Education Amendments, but they are making their college a desirable place for students to attend. 

“Students who identify as LGBTQ+ experience a higher rate of victimization because of their gender identity or their sexual orientation in a school setting,” Ellis states, “…if I am experiencing that in a college setting, then we also know that students who identify as LGBTQ+ have poor grades, lower GPAs, are more likely to drop out of college.” 

According to the ally manual, institutions with a GSA are less likely to hear negative remarks and slurs against the LGBTQ+ community on campus and students were less likely to miss school because of an increased feeling of belonging within the campus community.  

The Basics of Being an Ally 

Starting a journey to being a good ally can be intimidating for those who have not previously been exposed to the community. 

Part of Ellis’ definition of an ally is “…someone who is knowledgeable about the LGBTQ+ community…” she suggests to, “be aware of what’s out there.” 

An ally’s first step is to take advantage of the resources available on the Tri-C website and take the Safe zone ally training. After taking the ally training, explore the various handouts, resources, and manuals on Tri-C’s website. Due to the community’s evolving vocabulary, Allies should review the training every few years to refresh their knowledge on the new vocabulary and pressing issues the community faces.  Once an individual becomes knowledgeable, the next step could be putting your knowledge to use. 

“An ally is someone who is going to be nonjudgmental and confidential in their space. Right? So, anyone can come to them to express themselves” Ellis explains, “Doesn’t make any assumptions, asks questions, if someone comes to me and they share their identity and I’m not really clear maybe on what that identity is, I am asking questions never assuming actively using their preferred pronouns, the name they’re giving me.” 

Discretion and respect are two major components of allyship that must be brought into the academic setting. An ally should actively be using a person’s preferred pronouns and preferred name in the setting that the individual dictates are appropriate. It is important to remember that being LGBTQ+ can be dangerous, so always ask if the individual is out or how the ally can avoid outing them. The outing is a term used by the LGBTQ+ community that refers to “the deliberate or accidental sharing of another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their explicit consent.” Can an ally use the LGBTQ+ individual’s pronouns around friends? Around professors? Around their family? 

Tri-C offers a service where students may update their preferred name, add pronouns, and/or update their gender identification on my Tri-C space. Professors can take this one step further by being inclusive in the classroom

“…don’t call the roll. Because calling roll is off the sheet and you could be calling someone a name they don’t identify with,” Ellis offers the solution, “instead, you ask the students to go around and identify themselves and [professors] make the mark on the roster.” 

Students can fold a piece of paper in threes and have them write down their name and preferred pronouns and have students set them on their desk. In a virtual setting, students can put their preferred pronouns next to their name on the video conference software.  

Check out the resources Tri-C has available to faculty, staff, and students on their website. If you are a student who wishes to correct their pronouns on the school record, check out the This is Me link for more details. It is also encouraged to check your campus list of certified allies and reach out to Lambda GSA for further support. 

Paige Ray West campus |Date: November 15th, 2021

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