Marywood ALLY trains students to make the difference

Karla Dalious

Staff Writer

October is supposed to be a happy, proud month for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Since 1988, the eleventh of the month has been designated National Coming Out Day, a sort of holiday during which identities are declared and embraced. Members of the community who are either fully or semi-closeted are encouraged to reveal themselves however possible and everyone, LGBT and their supporters, is invited to display pride symbols.

This year, however, the month was marked in a very different way. The community was forced to grieve rather than celebrate over the losses of six young men, ranging in ages from 13 to 19 years, between the months of September and October. Each faced harassment and humiliation at the hands of their peers based on their orientation, driving them to end their own lives. It is the exact opposite of what the LGBT community has been working toward for so many years, and one cannot help but wonder why these deaths and the events leading up to them occurred. How could these senseless losses been avoided?

Perhaps all it would have taken was one person to talk to and confide in, one person to be accepting and nonjudgmental. It is hard to imagine that such a simple thing can make such a huge life-or-death impact, but sometimes just an open door and an open mind can make all the difference in the world. And if it is such a simple thing, wouldn’t you want to be prepared to be that one person and make that change?

ALLY, Marywood’s gay-straight alliance, has been training students and faculty members alike to fulfill just that role since the club’s inception.

Rooted in the values of empowerment and respect for each person, an ALLY training session is held at least once annually to educate interested individuals in everything from proper terminology to LGBT history and current issues. Participants are trained to be allies: to defend, refer, and sometimes simply to listen to and be a safe person for those in need. They are taught to understand and be aware of each person’s unique needs/circumstances, and to know when a situation is too complex for them to deal with on their own.

Common myths and misconceptions are addressed and tools to combat homophobia are presented in a fun, interactive way.The statistics are alarming: nine out of ten LGBT students have experienced harassment at school and these students are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. More than one-third report having made at least one attempt (thetrevorproject.org). Chances are that you either have or will encounter such a student and, even if you never do, no one can say that time becoming prepared is time wasted.

This year’s ALLY training will be held on Friday, November 5th from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Swartz Center for Spiritual Life. Dinner will be provided and, although all are welcome, registration is requested. Contact the club at [email protected] or advisor Sr. John Michele Southwick at [email protected] to sign up or for more information.

A rainbow triangle within a circle shows that the person is an ally. Photo courtesy of Sr. John Michele Southwick.
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