Student-led workshop educates on LGBTA issues

Katherine Opitz

A group of students who are enrolled in the first ever Queer Studies 301 course, Perspectives in Queer Studies, are trying to create a safer environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, queer and questioning, or LGBTIQQ, students at CSUN.

The students have designed both a brief classroom presentation and a full one-hour workshop to educate the CSUN community about queer issues. During these presentations they also give out a list of resources that helps students address the needs of a family member or friend who is going through the coming-out process.

The Ally Project website defines allies as ‘individuals who are willing to provide a safe haven, a listening ear, and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed people or anyone dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity issues.’
The Ally Project has existed at CSUN since spring 2002 but so far the majority of participants were faculty and staff members.

‘Given the results of our current election, there is much work to be done to dispel fear, prejudice and hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersexed people,’ said Dr. Gina Masequesmay, who teaches Queer Studies 301. ‘We need support from society at large for change to happen.’

Masequesmay said many heterosexual students and faculty are tolerant about having queer people around them, but they are not always supportive.

‘Some people are fine dealing with these individuals but would not want to be an Ally, for example because it is against their religion,’ said Masequesmay.

Kevin Zemlicka said he joined the Ally Project because he saw it as a ‘chance to stand up for a marginalized and oppressed group right now.’ Zemlicka who is straight, said heterosexual Allies are important to the success of the project.

‘I would encourage any students afraid of being publicly associated with the LGBTIQQ community to imagine the position they might have taken on any other social justice movement in our nation’s history,’ said Zemlicka.

The presentation covers such topics as how to best support the queer community, how to address homophobia and how to come out in a heterosexist society.

To learn more about the Ally Project, students are encouraged to attend today’s Ally workshop at 5 p.m. in Manzanita 124.