Queer Students Struggle on UofR Campus
The students at the University of Richmond are currently without an active queer group on campus. GayRVA made an attempt to contact the school’s Safe Zone program without a response and has recently found out the program has dissolved. According to the UofR newspaper, The Collegian, GLBTQ students on campus have seen heightened adversity lately. Since February, the student paper has been following issues facing the school’s queer community.
This dates back to January 29 when an anonymous student sent a letter to the editor, “Letter from the closet.”
Richmond is not free from prejudice against non-straight students. We’ve seen our cars keyed, whiteboards defaced and derogatory remarks — both verbal and electronic — hurled our way. Once, residents in my dorm said they would rather have a barn animal as a roommate than a gay one.
I distance myself from the hatred, confusion and distrust by altering the ways I talk, walk, dress and look, lest I be accused of being a “fag.” What if I look at males too much or my clothes match too well? Instead, I look down and intentionally mismatch my clothing. What if I sit with a guy too often at lunch or what if I listen to the “wrong” genre of music?
Another student, “Amicus,” responded to the online version of the article with this to say:
I write this in support of the anonymous author of “Letter from the closet”. In the past few days I have heard, “If this person is so concerned about the sexual minority community, why doesn’t he or she just come out?” The climate at the University of Richmond, however, does not yet allow this possibility for sexual minorities. There are quite a few of us here. But we are afraid. Deeply afraid. To be out is to be exposed, left open to merciless ridicule and physical harm.
On February 19, Guy Ross, a trustee to UofR responded on with his own Letter from a trustee to closeted students making some valid points and trying to ease student worries.
Slowly, painfully, this country has become more tolerant, more accepting, better educated, more understanding of who we as gay people are. And it has finally begun to dawn on most Americans that they’ve got queers living everywhere, in all communities. Richmond has been no exception.
This triggered The Collegian publishes their first article in the series “GLBTQ students struggle to find voice, identity.” Sexual minority students met on the campus through word of mouth to discuss the issues facing their community.
“The culture is dominated by fraternities, which is OK and not problematic, but some frats promote homophobia,” Frank said. “All of these things go unchallenged. There are those who speak up against it, but the voices aren’t heard.”
Staff on campus have noticed a shift:
“I’m noticing that I’m interacting with students more than in my previous jobs,” one staff member said at a Monday meeting of the Common Ground GLBT Community Board which is made up of GLBTQ and heterosexual people. “But I am ‘covering’ a lot more than I used to, and I don’t know why. For whatever reason, the vibe I’m getting is that I can’t present myself in front of students.”
On March 5, The Collegian, published their second article, “GLBTQ students embrace alternate social scene.” The article suggests that students go outside of the campus to find acceptance and that there is a homophobia on the campus.
“It was very clear that the campus was a hostile climate for queer people,” he said. “It was a kind of latent homophobia, in which you can tell people disapprove without showing actual violence. From my first month, my roommate and I were harassed. We would get threatening calls in the night.”
During his freshman year, Siekavizza said he had received anonymous phone calls from people who had threatened to beat him and damage his property for being gay. Threats on campus are rare, but other stories of GLBTQ students being threatened were known within the community, Tseng and Siekavizza said.
Others are saying the climate isn’t that bad.
Andy Gurka, the area coordinator for the University Forest Apartments, is one such openly gay staff member. During his four years at Richmond, Gurka said he had seen little hostility on campus from being out, but he acknowledged that some students might feel alienated about his sexual orientation. Still, it’s important for him to be a role model for other students, he said.
In a slight curveball to this coverage, an Op/Ed piece appeared in the April 9 edition of the Collegian by the VP of operations of Exodus International – yeah, that group that says you can be “free you of your homosexuality.”
My friend Chris recently blogged about this and said he wished he had known that there was such a thing as Exodus years ago: “That message of hope and grace was not shared with me until after I had embraced the gay identity – a time when I didn’t want to hear it. Had I had friends I knew I could trust with my secrets and who poured out the message of God’s grace over the coals of judgment I had been walking on, I don’t think I would have made some of the choices I did.”
While many campuses are having a Day of Silence on April 17, Exodus is promoting a Day of Truth to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda” on April 20.
If anyone has additional information on what’s going on at UofR, e-mail us at email@example.com.
“This year the Q-Summit is putting a more explicit focus on racial justice as it intersects with queer organizing in the south.”March 3, 2016
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