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  • Sincerely, Southern

Southern pride takes on a different meaning as university aims to be more inclusive

By Vanessa Ramirez

Graphic courtesy of Gay Straight Alliance

The LGTBQ+ community still continues to face discrimination, whether it’s in their personal lives, in the workplace or in public. It is known that the south is more likely to not be LGBTQ+ friendly, but Georgia Southern University has tried to ensure its students are safe and comfortable throughout the years.

“I personally haven’t come across any hatred in my time at Georgia Southern. But I’m a transfer student and I’m bi. So I think I have it easier sometimes,” said junior Sierra Hall.

Over the past decade, GS has made a change for its students. For example, The Gay-Straight Alliance on campus is a huge student organization for the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters. They host several events that many people attend. The GSA even hosts an annual spring drag show that is usually successful. One year it was so big that there were a few hundred students who had to be turned away. They also host an event called Trans Awareness Week.

There are many on-campus resources available to GS students. There are even gender-neutral restrooms available in many different locations on the Statesboro campus: Carroll Building for Social Gerontology, second floor on Zach S. Henderson Library, Health Center and the Counseling Center. A few are located on the Armstrong campus as well: Jenkins Hall, Counseling Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Windward Commons.

Furthermore, there is a Gender-Minority Closet which was actually started by a student. This is a place for transgender and non-binary people to shop, but it also provides free clothing to anyone who needs it. It’s a safe space where everything is mostly done anonymously. Because of COVID-19, the physical closet is closed until Fall 2021, but they are in the process of digitizing it so people can shop online.

More so, there is a Safe-Space Program, it’s a program that offers a two-hour orientation to raise awareness and knowledge of gender and sexual minority issues. It’s intended to increase understanding related to LGTBQ+ issues. It is also offered on the Armstrong campus in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

There is even a LGTBQ+ network and organization for GS alumni and their supporters. It is used to be a positive space to allow for a community to grow. Georgia Southern Health Services has tried to ensure that its LGBTQ+ students have a safe, caring, and comfortable environment for them when they come in for a medical appointment. Health Services keeps confidentiality, name preference and registration, transgender care, intersex care and hormone injections.

All health and medical records are confidential. Unless there is written permission, no health information can be shared with anyone.

Upon registration, there is an option to use a preferred name and a preferred gender as well. The Health Services provide several services to transgenders to continue getting health exams for one’s health. Routine health maintenance is also provided for intersex individuals. This involves routine medical examinations, annual exams, health maintenance exams and sexual health for individuals.

Georgia Southern’s medical providers do not currently initiate and prescribe hormone therapy for gender reassignment, but if someone is receiving hormone injections already by another doctor, then the Health Services will fill the prescription within its own pharmacy as well as performing blood work to help monitor the therapy.

GS became one of the only four schools in Georgia to be listed on the Campus Pride Index, standing at a 3.5 out of 5. The Campus Pride Index is a national benchmarking tool by which parents and students can assess the LGBTQ+ friendliness of university campuses.

“It is a long process that has several steps to it,” said Lisa Costello, the director of the women’s gender and sexuality studies program. “I was aided by a fantastic student Akalah Favors. We have to answer questions about our campus climate in curriculum, student affairs, health, housing, recruiting, etc.”

The Campus Pride Index is available for people looking to see if their potential college is LGTBQ+ friendly and how friendly it is. Several people use it, but some people don’t. In fact, some people don’t even know what it is.

“I didn’t even know there was something like that, but I wouldn’t have used it anyways. I’m not going to be in college like that, I’m just taking classes. And I don’t care what people think of me,” Sol Jackson, a future Georgia Southern student, said. Jackson is an openly gay 25-year-old who is planning to go back to college in the summer.

The WGSS program promotes teaching, research, and outreach activities that introduce students to the definitions, theories and methodologies in the study of gender. The courses offered focus on numerous topics such as women’s movements, class, genders, sexualities, LGBTQ+ or gender and sexual minorities (GSM).

The WGSS program partners with the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), to host the Lavender Graduation, to recognize and honor the accomplishments of graduating LGBTQ+ students and allies. It is offered online and in-person on both campuses. During the graduation, lavender cords are provided to add to graduation regalia, reading of graduate names, a video and reception. All are welcomed to the Lavender graduation, including LGTBQ+ community and its allies.

A look through the years

1989: Dr. Fred Richter, an English professor, formed the Triangle club.

October 1990: The Triangle Club has 30 members from surrounding areas.

October 2002: LGBT Awareness Month is celebrated on campus. This is a month dedicated to LGBTQ+ history and to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community.

September 2003: Triangle Club transitions to Gay-Straight Alliance club. The Gay-Straight Alliance is a huge student organization available on campus.

May 2018: Georgia Southern hosts the first Lavender Graduation to recognize and honor the accomplishments of graduating LGBTQ+ students and allies.

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