Launch into Leadership

LGBTQ support on campus: What is and isn’t provided by Georgia State

According to Georgia State’s Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity President Charlie Ryan, Georgia State administration is lacking in support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) community.

“As the president of this organization when there is no specific place designated for LGBTQ students and that responsibility falls on me, I wish I felt like I had more support from the university as a whole,” Ryan said.

The Alliance has over 800 current and previous members and is one of the oldest and largest student-led LGBTQ organizations in the Southeast.

“As one of the only active LGBTQ organizations on campus, I think Alliance’s main function is providing a sense of community. Alliance is really all queer students on campus have,” Ryan said.

Ryan sees Kennesaw State’s umbrella system as a good role model for the structure of an LGBTQ center at Georgia State.

“They have a multicultural center and they have a resource center for women, LGBTQ and international students. All of these groups have their own separate rooms that branch off of the center,” they said.

One problem that Ryan sees with Georgia State’s facilities is a lack of gender-neutral bathrooms, of which there are only nine on the entire campus.

“As someone that falls under the trans umbrella, I do feel like gender-neutral bathrooms [are] something that we have the money for and are totally capable of doing but we just haven’t,” they said.

Ryan said there is a need for competency training of faculty and staff for issues on gender and sexuality.

“Faculty should be competent on how to deal with having a trans student, with students getting misgendered in class or someone getting dead named,” they said.

“Dead naming” is the practice of calling an individual by a name they no longer identify with.

According to Ryan, Georgia State needs to take more action to provide for the LGBTQ student body.

“I wish the LGBTQ student body had more support, more commitment from the administration as a whole,” Ryan said. “Georgia State is a school that loves to talk about the diverse student population, but people who fall into those marginalized communities aren’t really seeing that pride in our diversity.”

As Ryan said, there is no center dedicated solely for LGBTQ students, like the centers at other schools including Georgia Tech, Emory, Kennesaw State and the University of Georgia.

Jeffrey Coleman is the director of the Multicultural Center at Georgia State.

“The Multicultural Center provides a safe space and acts as a resource center for LGBTQIQA identities,” Coleman said.

The center takes on a variety of roles to aid different groups of people. This includes but is not limited to supporting different races, religions, sexualities, gender identities and countries of origin.

“The Multicultural Center focuses on bridging the experiences of various intersecting identities, the center’s roles do not lessen the ability to address LGBTQIQA issues,” Coleman said.

In fact, he sees this variety of roles as an asset to the center.

“[Our programming] addresses the queer identities and the lived experience in conjunction with different races, countries of origin and religion,” he said.

However, Coleman does agree with Ryan that incorporating an LGBTQ-specific center within the Multicultural Center would further build community and inclusivity at Georgia State.

Until that may happen, the center still consolidates resources and hosts events for the LGBTQ community specifically. These include the Safe Zone workshop, the annual welcome reception and a long list of outsourced online resources.

Through Georgia State University Housing, gender-inclusive housing is provided as a residency option, allowing students to share suites regardless of their sex, gender identity or gender expression.

Georgia State does provide inclusive academics through the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, including a major in the field.

James Ainsworth is the chair of the University Senate’s cultural diversity committee.

“Just recently this semester, Georgia State has allowed the students to claim a preferred name officially. This name is allowed on the class rosters,” Ainsworth said.

This development is a considerable step in preventing misidentifying students.

“The problem was in the past professors may have refused to call the students by their preferred name instead using a name assigned at birth,” he said. “That can be marginalizing and problematic.”

According to a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) survey, Growing Up LGBT in America, which contains responses for more than 10,000 self-identified LGBTQ youth, 92 percent of respondents said they hear negative messages about being LGBTQ.

The HRC survey also reported that LGBTQ youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school.

However, the study did reveal a positive: 77 percent of LGBTQ youth say they know things will get better.

For students at Georgia State, there may be significant comfort in the location of the university. Atlanta has long been known as the “epicenter of the gay South.”

Atlanta has routinely ranked highly on the annual list of the Gayest Cities in America by Advocate, an LGBTQ interest magazine. The city even earned the No. 1 spot in 2010.

The list’s criteria change each year, awarding points for LGBTQ community involvement such as gay rugby teams, lesbian bars and “Moonlight” theater screenings.

In HRC’s 2017 Municipal Equality Index, Atlanta was given a perfect score—along with four bonus points for having an openly LGBTQ elected or appointed municipal leader. The score is comprised of the many ways local governments can provide support for LGBTQ people when federal and state governments don’t.

However, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) Equality Maps, the state of Georgia as a whole is one of only six states with a negative score for LGBTQ-friendly policies.

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