GLBT-SA Holds first Ally Week
Daniel Cothran, left, joins Assistant Dean of Students Melinda
Manning, sophomore Keegan De Lancie and first-year student Sarah
Trumble for a FEb. 3 Ally Panel Discussion. Photo by
By Robert Wells
Queers and allies. Questions
and answers. Purple buttons that proudly displayed the Q&A theme for
GLBT-SA's first Ally Week could be seen on book bags, shirts and
coats throughout campus from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7.
Ally Week gave the LGBTIQ
community on campus a chance to show appreciation for its straight
allies, to give allies a chance to become better educated and to
foster an honest dialogue between the communities.
Daniel Cothran, a
first-year student, vividly recalls the moment he became an ally.
“I was on a family trip
to Yellowstone (National Park) and we stopped in Laramie, Wyo.,”
Cothran said. “It had a distinct, eerie feel. I was trying to write
a poem, and I remembered a poem that my friend had written about
Matthew Shepard. It clicked that (Shepard) died in Laramie.”
Cothran became an
activist, participating in protests against anti-LGBTIQ religious
leader the Rev. Fred Phelps and begging the leader of his Boy Scout
troop to challenge the Boy Scout’s anti-gay policies.
When he came to the
University in 2004, Cothran began attending GLBT-SA meetings and
joined the Ally Week planning committee. He finally found a chance
to speak about his struggles and successes as an ally during the
Feb. 3 Ally Panel discussion.
“It can be intimidating
for a straight person to walk into a GLBT-SA meeting,” Cothran said
before the panel. He recounted a story in which someone mistakenly
implied that he was gay during a meeting.
Despite the initial
confusion, Cothran has remained heavily involved with the LGBTIQ
community this year by writing for LAMBDA and working for AIDS
prevention with Aids International Mentoring and Education.
Ally Week started off
with a bang on Jan. 31 outside the Student Union. Volunteers
distributed food, buttons and pamphlets; speeches were heard from
Vice Chancellor Peggy Jablonski, Professor Chuck Stone and a
prepared statement was read from Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the
College of Arts and Sciences.
That evening, the local
chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
held its monthly meeting in Carmichael Residence Hall. Thirty-six
students, parents and staff members spanning the spectrum of sexual
orientations exchanged stories and discussed what the ally and queer
communities can do for each other. Participants shared their
thoughts on open-ended prompts such as “A good ally….” Separate
cards were distributed to LGBTIQ-identified individuals and allies
to spark conversation.
The festivities continued
Feb. 1 with the GLBT-SA’s annual Student Body President Forum.
Pressing topics such as LGBTIQ theme housing and gender neutral
bathrooms were raised, as were past issues such as Alpha Iota
Omega’s lawsuit against UNC, last semester’s Kiss-In and the Elyse
Crystall incident. Tom Jensen garnered some cheers from GLBT-SA
members after claiming that he would willingly kiss another male in
the Pit for the next Kiss-In.
The first event on Feb. 2
was a Super-SHAH (Social Hour and a Half) sponsored by the LGBTQ
Office. For about 90 minutes, queers and allies casually chatted
over light snacks. LGBTQ 101 followed, drawing a crowd of some 20
students. Matching games involving different symbols in the LGBTIQ
community were played and the origins of these symbols were
The week’s main event,
the Ally Panel, took place before the regularly scheduled GLBT-SA
general body meeting Feb. 3. Two student allies and Assistant Dean
of Students Melinda Manning spoke about the importance and pressures
of being an ally.
They also discussed what
made them decide to become involved with the LGBTIQ community. A
statement was also prepared by sociology graduate student Natalia
Deeb-Sossa and read by student ally Sarah Trumble, the evening’s
facilitator. The meeting was followed by a question and answer
The weekend brought a
queer film festival with several LGBT-themed movies. The first to be
shown were “Fire,” a controversial film about a lesbian love affair
in India, and “The Edge of Seventeen,” a gay teenager’s coming of
age story set in the late 1980s. “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the story
of a love triangle between a gay man, a straight woman and a
bisexual man, and “Ma Vie en Rose,” the tale of a transgender youth,
were shown Feb. 5.
The week concluded Feb. 7
when former United Methodist Minister Jimmy Creech spoke to students
about his experiences as an ally. Creech explained how his
preconceived prejudices against homosexuality were shattered when a
fellow minister came out to him after being forced out of the church
due to his sexual orientation. Creech immediately began doing
historical and biblical research and came to the conclusion that
homosexuality and Christianity do not conflict. He then became an
advocate of LGBTIQ rights to the extent of performing same-gender
unions, costing him his congregation and his ministry. Creech is
working with the progressive organization Soulforce to promote
equality for everyone.
Jason Wang, coordinator
of the planning committee for Ally Week, said he was happy with the
attention brought to the need for unity between the queer community
and its straight allies.
“I’m proud that Ally Week
helped bring new people into (the) GLBT-SA,” said Wang. “It helped
us all realize how important it is for LGBTQ folk and their allies
to stand together.”