Dear Allies of JMU,
How’s it going? I know a lot of you are angry right now as we (the queer community) have been getting a lot of shit for attempting to celebrate ourselves. Many of you have been writing notes of encouragement on our Facebook walls, reminding us to remember that we are not alone and that the majority of JMU students are not bigoted. Some of you have approached us in person to tell us that we deserve better than what we’re getting and a few of you have even started to ask how you can help!
So first I want to say, Thank You. It is nice to feel supported and it is even nicer to not have to do all of the work ourselves. Speaking out can be emotionally and physically exhausting, so I appreciate those of you who have attempted to make a difference by letting us and your friends know what you stand for and what kind of community you want to live in.
That being said, I think it is crucial to begin envisioning a world where activism and support go beyond the haven of passivity that is Facebook. The physical and mental abuse as well as a lack of institutional support is nothing new to LGBTQ students JMU. Although this is the first time people have responded in such a blatant way to a campus event, queer students at JMU have long been under attack.
Two years ago a gay student ended up in the hospital after being attacked at a party. Countless students have been harmed and bullied in their dorms. The Board of Visitors previously removed ‘sexual orientation’ from the non-discrimination policy and has yet to include ‘gender identity’. LGBT students and staff do 99% of diversity education for students,faculty and staff, including RAs and Hall directors. For ten years administration has ignored the call to hire a full time staff person in the LGBT and Ally Education program. Currently JMU does not employ a even one full-time, professional staff person to work specifically on the needs of the LGBT community, though we are approaching nearly 20,000 students.
Allies have come out in full force online to show that JMU is not an intolerant school. While this is great, LGBTQ people need more than a Facebook status supporting our pride week. We need a fully active community, which demonstrates that support for queer students goes beyond any one person’s approval of our sexual orientation or gender identity.
We need you to support changes to the policies that will make JMU a safer and more inviting campus for queer people. So that when assholes threaten our community in the future, we have full time staff we can turn to. So that if we are attacked, we know we are legally protected. So that we are not solely responsible for educating an entire community about our lives. So that Trans students don’t have to move off campus when they don’t have a safe place to live.
When you tell us you care, it feels good. When you take action to improve these issues, it changes lives.
It is time to transform your outrage. Please don’t stop at Facebook. I informed every person who asked me what they could do to help, to write a letter to the Breeze or administration addressing one of the issues above. I have yet to see a single letter come out other than one written by an LGBT student. Now is the time to educate yourself about these issues, get to know us, show up to GayMU events, partner with our community, write a letter, Speak up foreal! This is about more than your acceptance. It is about our right to live freely and safely on our campus.
I am asking you to take part. Don’t wait until we are attacked again to use your voice.
P.S: To learn how to be an active ally and how you can get involved in making a difference on our campus, see the comments section below!