In a fast-changing world, people can face the issue of not being accepted or appreciated for who they are or what they believe. This includes the group of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning ─ also known as the LGBTQ+ community.
Across the nation, people of this community endure hardships and ridicule because of their identities and their life choices. However, at The W, those who identify within this community have a different story to tell.
"I feel like this is the first and only college that has treated me fairly, in the way I feel comfortable," said activist and community member Blossom Brown. "I feel comfortable here."
Alistair Robinson also said the community here has been accepting of him as well.
"People outside of The W are iffy, but since I've come here, people on campus have really been supportive," said Robinson.
When it comes to support, how far does it go? It can be said that, campus-wide, students know that social clubs are gender-based. In the case of transgender students, though, what clubs would they join?
Each social club on campus has its own membership requirements that vary from group to group. Based on those standards, a person is given an opportunity to join that club. Candidates must go through Rush or Recruitment to be evaluated for these standards.
The Office of Student Life is a convergence point for many functions, including campus traditions, Blues Week, Student Government Association and the Student Programming Board. Social organizations are also overseen by this office. Jessica Harpole, director of Student Life, said that those in the transgender community will be treated like any other student when it comes to joining a social club.
"[In the case] that a transgender student would come in, he or she would say, 'I want to go through Rush' or 'I want to go through Recruitment,' and then we would sign that student up just like we would any other student," Harpole said. "Unless those students self-disclose, there's no way to know that, so it's about their identity and where they feel like they are the best fit."
Also in Student Life and across campus is a program called "SafeZone." This program was created by The LGBTQ Academy at the Gay Alliance to develop, enhance and maintain environments in social settings that are supportive of people of any race, sexuality or gender. The program strives to increase awareness and helps to create a welcoming space for all. Professors and staff across campus have been trained to understand how to help people in and outside the LGBTQ+ community, whetever situation they may be in. These allies can be identified by a SafeZone sign in their offices that indicates a safe zone for any individual. This is just another sign of The W's welcoming atmosphere.
Nikesh Acharya, secretary of the Nepalese Student Association, said that he feels like The W is a warm environment for the LGBTQ+ community.
"I think we are doing well. I don't see discrimination, so that tells me we're doing pretty good with it," said Acharya.
When it comes to understanding the LGBTQ+ community, many people don't know where to begin. Allies with the community, however, may be a good place to start.
"Sometimes I see people talking about how they're allies, and then other people tell them that they shouldn't be saying that because they don't know what's happening. I think allies are actually good people, because they might not know personally what's happening with the community, but they want to help the best they can," said Robinson. "I think it's mostly because a lot of the people in the community get freaked out that they think that everybody who gets close wants to attack them, but that's not always the case."
To those who want to help or be active in showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community, one action is important: have an open mind.
"Before you jump to judgment, stop and learn people. Get to know people, because you never know [...] you might be missing out on a good person to meet," said Brown.