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SMC plans LGBTQ support events for Ally Week

Haleigh Ehmsen | Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In order to promote a “safe zone” for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, the Saint Mary’s Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) is sponsoring Ally Week through Friday.

Senior and SAGA president Eileen Cullina said Ally Week is possible because of people who stand up as allies and thanks to the members of SAGA who plan and facilitate the events.

“There are members of the LGBTQ community on campus,” Cullina said. “This week is important because it sends the message to these students that this is a campus full of allies. It also give students who are allies the opportunity to speak up and stand up for their LGBTQ peers.”

Senior Hayley Miller, treasurer of SAGA, said the week has multiple distinct goals.”It reminds all of us [of] the importance of respecting others, it educates students on LGBTQ issues, and it promotes all individuals to be open to diversity by creating a safe zone for others,” she said.

Cullina said students can sign a pledge in the dining hall, vowing to support their peers who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

“The pledge in the dining hall is a visual representation of student and faculty allies on campus,” Cullina said. “Nearly 100 people signed the pledge during just one two-hour lunch period. Signing the ally pledge is a very simple way to stand up and say ‘LGBTQ is fine by me.'”

A panel of Saint Mary’s students will discuss LGBTQ issues in the Student Center Lounge today at 8 p.m. Cullina said these students will explain their perspectives on LGBTQ issues on campus.

Miller, who will speak on the panel, said it is important to understand the meaning of being an ally. She said she hopes students who attend the panel will learn to define “ally” for themselves.

“To me, being an ally means creating a non-judgmental, open-minded, hate-free environment where it is safe to discuss issues surrounding sexual orientation or really any issue regarding diversity,” Miller said. “I hope that by the end of the event, each person in the audience will walk away with their own unique meaning of the word ‘ally.'”

There will be safe zone training Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Student Center Lounge, followed by a tye dyeing event in the Le Mans Hall basement at 7 p.m.
These events aim to reinforce that LGBTQ students are not alone, Cullina said, and that SAGA is active on campus and already looking forward to events next semester.

“In the spring, we will have a campus-wide pride week,” Cullina said. “In the meantime, we hope to bring some speakers to campus, as well as [to] host LGBTQ friendly social events “If there is one message I want Saint Mary’s students to take from this week, it is that the majority of this campus is supportive of the LGBTQ community.”

Contact Haleigh Ehmsen at hehmse01@saintmarys.edu