Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gay? Hofstra is your Ally!

A university like Hofstra is a microcosm of the larger United States culture and society. Being a university, however, puts it in the unique position of being responsible for educating and creating well-rounded citizens who can both excel at their career and be adaptable, socially-conscious people. The problems of the greater US are also experienced to varying degrees at Hofstra. One problem in particular is homophobia. The violent crimes rate against people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) is on the rise. According to Herek, over 90% of LGBTQ individuals report experiencing some form of harassment based on their identity. It is important to remember that harassment, violence, and even small gestures of non-acceptance toward LGBTQ people (e.g., comments like “That’s so gay!”) are not random and isolated events. It is a larger sign of a homophobic thread that remains stubbornly weaved into the multicultural tapestry that is the United States of America. To change the world, they say you have to start at home. Here at Hofstra, which we hope is your home away from home, we believe we can begin plucking out the threads of homophobia.

To the LGBT community, the Division of Student Affairs at Hofstra recognizes that it may be difficult for you to feel safe and accepted in a society in which homophobia is still such an issue. We are committed to creating, at Hofstra, a truly cosmopolitan community that is defined by acceptance and support of all cultural differences, including sexual and gender identity.

A recent article on entitled “Gay Discrimination and Stigma and How to Cope” helps LGBTQ individuals, as well as concerned allies, recognize homophobic behavior in the world around them and identify prejudice thinking. The Division of Student Affairs has created programming and services to counteract stigma and discrimination and help LGBTQ students cope. Some of the recommendations suggests are:
Share your experiences: find a safe space such as a gay support group where you can share your experiences with others
Join an advocacy group: a group that actively fights gay stigma and discrimination
Find the right people: surround yourself by loved ones who support you and those that may be going through similar situations themselves.

The Pride Network at Hofstra is a safe place to share your experiences, find support, and advocate against homophobia. The Multicultural & International Student Programs Office (MISPO) is in the process of creating a Safe Space project to educate allies to create a community of acceptance on campus. The stigma and discrimination of homophobia creates unique anxiety to individuals who wish to come out and identify as LGBTQ.  The MISPO and Student Counseling Services will be providing a support workshop to help in this delicate process. Visit MISPO or Pride Network’s on Facebook for updates on these important upcoming programs. Join other allies in this cause; you are invited to attend the annual LGBTQ History Month Reception, Wednesday October 2nd in Multipurpose Room East from 11:15 to 12:45.

Creating educated, adaptable, and socially conscious citizens is a primary purpose of higher education. In working toward that goal, instilling a passion for social justice and equal consideration for all people regardless of sexual, gender, or any other form of identity is an important piece in creating a more compassionate society overall.

Guest Blogger: 
Jason Schaefer Graduate Student Assistant for LGBTQ Programs at MISPO
Mental Health Counseling Graduate Student


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