Having allies in college is important to LGBT students

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Photos of red equal signs flooded about every social networking site last week in support of gay marriage, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepared to hear cases for both, Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA.)

The Supreme Court heard arguments for and against Prop. 8, a California law that bans same-sex marriages, and DOMA, a federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and woman.

Knowing how important this is to millions of people, I set out to start interviewing some students on campus.

Person after person, I kept getting the same response, “I don’t really keep up with what is going on with that.”

Going on with “that?”

With stories on the news about LGBT students committing suicide due to bullying, I started thinking that maybe students should care about Prop.8 and DOMA because after all, one doesn’t have to be in a same-sex relationship to care.

Therefore, I contacted someone I knew would care, to get her perspective on this and that was Edlin Burciaga, Gay Straight Alliance President.

“I would say, marriage should be between two people that love each other. There are many straight couples that get married for many reasons that are not because of love,” Burciaga said. “The LGBT community is fighting so hard for the chance to marry whomever they want, because it is important and meaningful to us. We wouldn’t fight so hard and for this long if we didn’t believe in it.”

After my experience with students and actually being surprised that they in fact did not know or didn’t really care, I decided to ask Burciaga about the importance of having straight allies, not only in the community but on campus.
Burciaga said that having allies in general is important because it would help spread the word of who the LGBT community is, who they are as individuals and a community as well as helping them build their support and teach others about the LGBT history.
“Having Allies in college is especially important because students are here to learn, we are here to learn from our professors and from other students,” Burciaga said. “Having this sort of help in college builds character and creates a whole different atmosphere in school for students to feel comfortable in their own skin. We learn a lot in college and learning about the LGBT community gives them their own experience.”
While I personally consider myself an allie, there are things that I had yet to understand.
Not long ago, I was speaking to someone about this very topic. The topic of gay marriage came up and the fact that although she had the chance to marry, not all LGBT people would have the same opportunity. I then said something to the effect of, “It’s just a piece of paper, you can still be together” but I really didn’t get it.
I am a supporter of same-sex marriages and always have been but that was something I still wouldn’t understand as I myself have never had anyone tell me I wasn’t allowed to marry who I wanted. Until I heard it twice. And if that was me, someone who supports “gay marriage” or as I call it, marriage, didn’t know the full gist of it, I could only imagine what those students who responded with “I don’t know” are perceiving.

“I personally don’t think it is just a piece of paper. It’s because of our equal rights and freedom of choice, to choose who we want to be with for the rest of our lives and having the world acknowledge that,” Burciaga said.  “We’re fighting so hard for this because it is important to us to have the world acknowledge an LGBT relationship and believe we are not just doing it to make people angry or because we are bad people. I want people to understand we are who were are and that will never change, we deserve to be happy and have a wife or husband to love, just like any other straight couple out there.”

Burciaga made a good point, college is a time where students start to find themselves and having students on campus being well-informed and showing support will help students “feel comfortable in their own skin.”

Although students at EC have the GSA Club on campus, there are a number of support websites for LGBT students such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Campus Pride that encourage students to create “Safe Zones” on campus for them to turn to in time of need.

There are also a variety of scholarships available such as Live Out Loud, Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and  The Point Foundation.

“We face struggles everyday; we get harassed, bullied, discriminated and hated. There are many people in the LGBT community that have it worse than others, sometimes because their hometown is not LGBT friendly, others because of their school environment,” Burciaga said. “It can be really hard for us, that is why we believe in equality. Sometimes the challenge is to get up in the morning and do it all over again, we’re fighting against that; we need change.”

 

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