CSUN’s LGBTA membership growing

Jacky Guerrero

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Every Thursday night members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance (LGBTA) convene in the Thousand Oaks room above the Associated Students office. Two years ago the alliance had less than twenty active members, today their numbers have nearly doubled.

‘When I first started, in 2004, there were only eight people coming to the meetings,’ said George Cerda a senior economics major. ‘Now we have about 35 active members and about 90 people showed up to our first meeting.’

An organization serving the CSUN LGBT community has been on campus since 1973. However, the most recent organization, the LGBTA, seeks to increase both their presence and the awareness of their community on campus.

On April 16 Martel Okonji’ was elected as LGBTA president for the fall 2009 semester. When Okonji first came to CSUN he was still in the closet and was looking for an organization to be a part of. He had first considered the Black Student Union but realized that the BSU already had’ progressive and capable leaders to fight for their rights.

‘It was then that I realized it was time to come out of the closet for my family and for myself to defend our rights,’ said Okonji. Since then he has been an active LGBTA member.
When asked what his agenda will be for next semester he said, ‘I want to create more awareness on campus about our club, as well as make our organization more of a family.’

To create more awareness, the organization wants to place more signs around the campus to let students know where to find them. This is particularly important because students like Okonji would not have known when or where weekly LGBTA meetings would be held.
The organization also seeks to emphasize and strengthen their alliance with straight community, a fact that some members feel goes unnoticed.

Vania Ellison who was recently elected as next semester’s LGBTA vice president has been an active member for two years.

‘My best friend is a lesbian, and I feel that the heterosexual community suppresses the gay community,’ said Ellison. ‘And it is my right to defend and support my best friend.’

For the most part, LGBTA members say they view CSUN as a safe campus to be open about their sexuality.

‘CSUN is safe, I have gotten more ‘I appreciate you’ than ‘I despise you’,’ said Okonji. ‘After elections it broke the mold on campus and we were able to become more visible and gain support.’

Recently the LGBTA held its Day of Silence, during which members and supporters stood outside the Oviatt Library wearing black attire with a red sash tied around their mouth’s to symbolize the silence that the LGBT and their allies have had to face.

‘I was scared of what people would say and what strangers would do,’ said Sara Watts, a senior English major and first time participant in the event. ‘But I decided to take it with a grain of salt and brush it off.’

Watts joined the club after transferring from Pierce College where she was still in the closet and unsure about coming out.

‘This organization helped me come out and be more comfortable, little by little,’ said Watts.

The CSUN LGBTA is looking to the future and has started coordinating with other organizations on campus. They have put together a showcase of different artists that they hope will reach out to more clubs and people, as well as starting a CSUN LGBTA Web site so they can continually update their members and the outside community.

For any further information about the CSUN LGBTA organization you can visit their website at www.lgbta.org/index.html.