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Second ‘Justice Friday’ addresses LGBTQ issues

Angela Bakur | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Last week, the Saint Mary’s Justice Education Department discussed issues facing LGBTQ students at its second “Justice Friday” event.

Senior Eileen Cullina, president of the Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA), said justice is an “enormous topic” affecting members of the LGBTQ community worldwide.

“In 29 states … you can still be fired for being gay. That’s more than 50 percent,” Cullina said. “In 34 states, you can be fired for being transgender, and LGBTQ youth (under the age of 18) are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than youth in general.”

Cullina said sharing this information can create positive change for LGBTQ students and the entire Saint Mary’s community.

“I would hope for a response of awareness more than anything else,” she said. “There are a lot of people on campus who live in a bubble, who don’t think there are lesbians who live on campus, despite the stereotypes about girls’ schools.”

Cullina said she knows of students on campus who are afraid of coming out about their sexuality, and many members of the LGBTQ community face aggressive discrimination from strangers.

“There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that someone is so angry that they want to physically hurt you, not because you said or did anything to them, but just because you exist and they have such a problem with who you are,” Cullina said.

Although some people want to be open-minded about different kinds of sexuality, it can be difficult for them to be accepting when confronted with the issue face-to-face, Cullina said.

“Something I think about every day is that the most important way to handle things is to never react negatively to comments and looks, but to always think about educating that person,” Cullina said.

SAGA will participate inNational Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and will host Ally Week at the end of October, Cullina said. During Ally Week, a panel of students, allies and professors will talk about what it means to be a LGBTQ student and what being an ally entails.

“[Being] an ally means being someone who is LGBTQ-friendly and not being afraid to speak up – being a ‘super-friend,'” Cullina said.

Cullina said allies play an important role in spreading awareness and informing others about the LGBTQ community, and SAGA will host ally training this school year.

Cullina said she hopes SAGA’s events will help educate the entire Saint Mary’s community, even people who are already LGBTQ-friendly.

“Although I think Saint Mary’s has a long way to go, I’ve met so many amazing friends and allies here at Saint Mary’s,” she said.

Contact Angela Bakur at abakur01@saintmarys.edu