Training session helps educate GLBT allies

Victoria Pagan

The Gender and Sexuality Center sponsored an Ally-training session where 12 staff and students learned about GLBT terminology, misconceptions and ways to support the community.

The program was one of many events during 2011 Pride Week. To be a GLBT Ally means you have taken the Ally course, are aware of on- and off-campus GLBT resources, are familiar enough with terminology to be comfortable talking within the GLBT community, and sit with only positive regard for GLBT people, said Shane Whalley, the Center education coordinator and event speaker.

Whalley said many people in Austin fail to consider the struggles that GLBT people face because they assume discrimination doesn’t happen in such a liberal city.

“There have been two hate crimes on Fourth Street this year,” Whalley said. “By not being aware of these things, you can be putting a friend in harm’s way.”

Whalley said heterosexism is a problem within the GLBT community because it is ingrained in our society and is hard to get out of the minds of many people.

“I’ve never had someone come up to me and say, ‘Do you think so-and-so is heterosexual?’” Whalley said. “Heterosexism is this basic systemic practice that assumes that everyone is heterosexual.”

Gender and Sexuality Center director Ixchel Rosal said many people purposefully or accidentally cause GLBT people harm by ‘outing’ their sexual orientation.

“Someone’s sexual orientation is really confidential, and outing someone’s sexual identity can be doing them more harm than good,” Rosal said.

Rosal said the media often fails to accurately portray the GLBT community and other groups with whom it interacts.

“They tend to put media focus on faith communities that are not supportive of the GLBT community,” Rosal said. “There is a Christian left, and there is a Christian community that is very embracing of GLBT.”

Meg Helpin, who is at UT as part of Americorps VISTA, a national organization that fights poverty, said after experiencing Ally training, she thinks it would be good for people both inside and outside the GLBT community.

“It’s just awesome to learn about the available resources we have on campus and about the support the UT [GLBT] community receives through the UT non-discrimination policy,” Helpin said.