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During Valentine’s Day weekend, the Human Rights Campaign made history with their first ever “Time to Thrive” conference in Las Vegas, Nev. and Linfield sent four students from Fusion to attend.
The conference’s goal was to educate its patrons on how to help protect and support the LGBT community.
“Too many LGBTQ youth face significant challenges to being supported and empowered in their communities, schools and even homes because of who they are. I’m grateful Time to THRIVE is bringing people together to raise awareness and find solutions to ensure every young person can be empowered, for their future, and ours,” said Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Hilary and Bill Clinton, who spoke during the conference.
Linfield students were able to listen to keynote speakers and attend workshops to further their awareness and cultural competency.
“We brought back a ton of information,” sophomore Connie Mathews, Fusion co-president, said. “We got more aware of some issues in the community and we got tons of resources, a lot of information, a lot of contacts that we can utilize so that we can help make the Linfield community more inclusive and safer for the LGBT community.”
The conference, with its 600 attendees, has been the focus on several news stories, most of which focusing on actress Ellen Page, who publicly came out at the conference during her key note speech.
The conference featured several other speakers.
“They had a lot of different speakers. They had Constance McMillen who protested at her high school because she couldn’t take her date to prom… There were just a lot of cool people that came out to inspire us and since it was such a low-key conference, we actually got to talk to some of them one on one,” Matthews said.
Fusion itself was inspired by the conference to further its mission in making the campus safe and accepting.
“We had a pretty strong last semester. This year the leadership is focusing on doing things that we haven’t done before,” Mathews said. “I know that some people have reported that campus isn’t the most inclusive and isn’t the most safe place, so with the gender neutral bathrooms that we’re having on campus, we have learned how to approach gender neutral bathroom and pretty much establish that it is an option and learned where we can go from there in terms of making campus more gender neutral.”
Fusion is currently working very hard towards Sexuality Week, which will take place April 7-11, which includes Day of Silence.
Paige Jurgensen / Columnist
Paige Jurgensen can be reached at Linfieldreviewnews@gmail.com
(From left) Juniors Caitlyn Hertel and Ariana Lipkind, director of multicultural programs Jason Rodriguez, freshman Robin Seiler-Garman and sophomore Connie Mathews represent FUSION at the Time to Thrive conference in Los Angeles.
Photo courtesy of Jason Rodriguez
Coming out, or telling your friends and family that you are not heterosexual, was a monumental experience in the life of six students who shared their stories with a Linfield audience Oct. 10.
Members of the FUSION gay-straight alliance group on campus hosted two events this week celebrating national coming out week. The first event included a panel of six Linfield students who shared their experiences with being gay, lesbian, bi- or pan-sexual, or growing up with lesbian parents.
The panel was an effort by FUSION to bring more awareness of campus to the issue of student sexuality and how understanding and support is the first step in bringing change. In August, the Oregon Says I Do campaign collected 42,000 signatures to support a ballot that would allow Oregon to become the last state on the West Coast to allow same-sex marriage after Washington and California.
This is the first coming out panel to ever happen on campus and was made up of six current Linfield students. An audience of 30 listened to the panelists describe their own unique experience with accepting their role in the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The differences in each story sometimes make it difficult for every member to relate to each other. Misconceptions about the LGBT community frequently can effect the way a person chooses to address their participation.
“I always assumed that my peers thought I was gay because of my two moms,” said junior Peggy Barrett. “I knew I wasn’t though, because I had grown up with lesbian parents and that helped me see that I clearly wasn’t a lesbian.”
Another complication when coming out is trying to find the right definition of individual sexuality. In a culture focused on the labeling people, there are often stigmas attached to different definitions.
“It’s just a phase is something I heard a lot,” said junior Shauna Koester when telling people she identifies as a bi-sexual. “I’ve also heard that bi-sexuals are just greedy, that they need to pick a side.”
Bi-sexuality has long been used to describe people who are attracted to both sexes. There is, however, a new definition of sexuality that seeks not to label people as either male or female called pan-sexual. Pan-sexuals are attracted to the person and don’t see gender as a factor of attraction.
The Linfield panelists each addressed how their background effected how and when they decided to come out.
“I moved out because I didn’t feel comfortable in my house,” said senior Elizabeth Guzman Arroyo, who comes from a Catholic and Hispanic background. “When I eventually came out to my mother her only concern was that I felt safe and knew that I could come home whenever I wanted to. Family is big in the Hispanic community.”
This event was one of two hosted by FUSION, aligning with its goal to bring awareness to the LGBT community at Linfield.
Olivia Marovich / News editor
Olivia Marovich can be reached at email@example.com.
Erin Heltsley/Freelance photographer
Junior Jeremy Odden (left) and senior Elizabeth Guzman Arroyo share their experiences coming out on Oct. 10 in the Pioneer Reading Room. The panel featured six Linfield students, who shared their experiences with the LGBT community. It was hosted by the FUSION gay-straight alliance club.
Three students invited a transgender advocacy and education group to speak at Linfield on Nov. 29 as part of a project for their Health Education Methods class.
Seniors Cora Hall and Mckenna Pyeatt were at a health education conference where the non-profit organization Transactive was presenting. They saw the importance of awareness of transgender youth in the health field.
“We really liked what they shared at the conference, especially since most of us are going to be health educators,” Hall said. “We’re going to see these kids, and they’re problems we’re going to have to solve now. It’s important to be equipped to deal with those.”
With the help of Fusion, Hall, Pyeatt and junior Julie Schoettler hosted the Transactive presentation. Transactive volunteers Griffin Lacy and Lissy Richards spoke about the importance of educating the public and advocating for transgender youth.
“We’re excited to be at Linfield because this is a population we don’t always reach,” Lacy said. “Transgender people are a population I think are underserved.”
Transactive is a Portland-based organization that provides services, education, advocacy and research for transgender youth and their families. It is the leading national organization, and the only Oregon organization, that focuses on the youth.
“There aren’t enough agencies doing this work,” Richards said.
Hall was struck by the importance of the subject, especially with regard to bullying and children.
“I haven’t been exposed to trans issues before. It’s never been addressed in any of my student teaching, or when I was in school,” Hall said. “This is the first time that opened my eyes to what is really happening, to how big and broad it really is.
“We hoped for a better turnout, but we wanted to get the word across campus that bullying is out of control, especially with youth,” Hall said. “We wanted people to be aware of the trans community and the fact that they’re people too. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Everyone should be able to be themselves.”
The volunteers from Transactive showed videos of success stories from transgender youth, but explained that this is not always the case for most transgender youth. They said 35 to 73 percent of youth report often being verbally abused by parents.
“Some parents allow trans children to express themselves at home, but not in public. Their identity has to be a secret,” Richards said.
“I thought it was a great presentation. That made me more bummed that there weren’t more people there to hear it,” Hall said. “I think it’s still a scary topic for a lot of people, just being uncomfortable and not really understanding.”
Hall praised Lacy and Richards for their passion and ability to get the message across.
“I love Transactive,” she said. “I think what they’re doing is fantastic. Sometimes I get really discouraged because I don’t feel that I can make a difference. But they encouraged me that one person can make a difference.”
Kelsey Sutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m a busy guy,” laughs sophomore Aidan Willers, as he finishes writing out his schedule for the week.
In between swim practice and meets, and in the thick of rigorous classes required for nursing majors, Willers dedicates his time and efforts to FUSION, Linfield’s Gay/Straight Alliance Club.
Named president of FUSION this year, Willers strives to help educate and address matters surrounding sexuality—a matter that has greatly affected him personally.
“I have always advocated, and I will always continue to advocate for anti-bullying policies,” Willers said.
Once a high scholar at a private Jesuit High School, Willers is familiar with the conflicts and rifts that can exist between the gay and straight communities.
“It is something that is very close to my heart, being a victim of bullying,” Willers said.
In addition to the bullying that took place there, his high school had no GSA, or any other opportunities to open up conversation about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community—a discouraging prospect to someone struggling to come out for the first time.
“I had half my foot in the closet still,” Willers said.
The obstacles, however, only inspired Willers to address the rumors surrounding his sexual orientation.
Emboldened, Willers took the conversation to Facebook and officially came out.
“It was very self empowering,” Willers said.
With a newfound inspiration to engage in healthy discussion, Willers began a new chapter of his life at Linfield.
“The first day of freshman year I was like, ‘where is GSA and when can I join?’” Willers said.
Now, Willers is president of FUSION—which has already seen significant changes since his involvement.
“We have more members this year than we have in the past,” FUSION’s Community Liaison, Jeremy Odden, said. “I am thrilled with Aidan as president this year. He has taken the club by the horns and really gotten us together, motivated and enthusiastic.”
Willers and fellow members have brought this enthusiasm outside of meetings and onto campus. In April, FUSION brought drag queen Shane, from RuPaul’s Drag Race, to perform and talk about his life experiences in Melrose’s Ice Auditorium for Divas for Diversity. Willers MC’d the event.
On Oct. 1, FUSION celebrated National Coming Out Day around campus—providing education about the nationally observed day, bracelets, as well as a symbolic door frame for people of any sexual orientation to walk through.
“The main point that people should take away from the events is tolerance,” Willers said. “Linfield is such a small community that one incident of intolerance can really be detrimental to the community as a whole.”
Although in the middle of swim season and heavy workloads for his nursing major, Willers continues to plan more events with fellow members of FUSION.
“It’s certainly a lot to juggle, I’m not going to deny it. It takes a lot of organization and perseverance ” Willers said. “But it allows me to leave my mark, and it makes me proud to attend this school.”
Chrissy Shane can be reached at email@example.com