LGBT center focuses on allies
Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT?Communities helps U. community understand LGBTQ issues
Nina Duong, a member of Rutgers Student Life, said while Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer people face oppression daily, the University is taking steps to make them feel more at home.
“I personally identify as a lesbian female here on campus. And just sitting in [the] back there and seeing the number of allies that are here just makes me feel like this community is really welcoming,” said Duong, a graduate student in the School of Education.
One of these steps, the Safe(R) Space program, hosted by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities on Friday at the Livingston Student Center, attracted students and faculty interested in staying informed about current LGBTQ issues.
“We have it open to all students and faculty because we think it’s really important to have a shared language here on campus,” said Jenny Kurtz, director of the center.
At the beginning of the session, each attendee gave both their name and their preferred pronoun.
Zaneta Rago, assistant director at the center, said asking preferred pronouns in the beginning of a conversation eliminates any need to make assumptions about others.
But Rago said while knowing terminology creates an understanding of the general location of a person’s identity, it may not give all the details that a full address would.
Linnea Dickson, assistant vice-chair for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology, said Rago’s assessment was accurate.
“We tend to think, well that’s the word and that’s the definition,” Dickson said. “I like the idea that she acknowledged that these are fluid terms that are always changing and even when it’s not changing, each person may have their own take on it.”
The training included various group activities to help attendees better understand the issues LGBTQ students face on a daily basis.
Duong said she made a list of what she calls “the four I’s of sexual oppression” to apply them to LGBTQ issues at the event.
“[Transforming] the four I’s of oppression: ideological oppression, institutional oppression, internalized oppression and interpersonal oppression … to issues faced by LGBTQ students was really interesting,” Duong said.
Duong said the fight involves not only the LGBTQ community but also everyone who cares about human rights.
“We are not going to be able to end homophobia by ourselves, and it is a big deal that our allies really take a part of this movement,” she said. “I think this is the first step, by going to something like this and educating yourself on what are the challenges facing the LGBTQ community.”
Rago said the environment the University creates plays a large role in LGBTQ issues.
“We at the center are not the only folks doing this work because we cannot and should not be the only ones who are up to date on LGBTQ issues,” Rago said. “We need to make sure that there are people in every corner of the University who can help students feel comfortable.”
The Center for Social Justice and LGBT Communities hosts the sessions on the last Friday of every month, but will expand the program to include a training session for graduate students interested in becoming program facilitators.