The city that I was born and raised in is not famous for its diversity or accepting nature. The people of Naples, FL, are generally rich-white-old-bigoted folk. When I came to UM, I learned about a completely different world. I came to a city and a campus that are generally accepting of the broad diversity of human sexuality. Coming Out Week is a wonderful example of this diversity. People who identify anywhere along a wide spectrum of sexuality, whether it be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, straight, or whatever you wish to call yourself, are able to unite to achieve the basic goals of equality and an end to discrimination.
A little over a year ago, I was involved in a summer internship here at UM when I heard something horrible: certain bigots had organized a petition to remove the words “sexual orientation” from the Miami-Dade Human Rights Ordinance. If this proposal were to be approved by county voters, then it would have again become legal to discriminate against individuals – in housing, employment, and other areas – based simply on sexual orientation. I joined a group called SAVE Dade, whose mission was to inform the voters that this was wrong, that discrimination must be kept illegal and that it was not a case of “special preference” for the sexual minority community. We called undecided voters; we held up signs on street corners; we even stood outside the polls on Election Day trying to change the minds of uninformed voters at the last minute. Luckily, county question 14 was barely voted down on 9/10/02, and discrimination is illegal for now in Miami-Dade County and in a select number of other jurisdictions around the country. The process is far from complete.
I am proud to be part of a university that works to honor the value of diversity. I am proud that UM offers a Domestic Partners Benefit plan to its employees. I am proud that groups such as SpectrUM can organize the events it does, like Coming Out Week, and get such an accepting response. I am proud that the College of Arts and Sciences offers classes like EPS 340, the Psychology and History of Sexual Identity, which I am currently taking. This class presents a research-based approach to contemporary and more out-of-date models and views of homosexuality. When you learn that homosexuality was clinically regarded as pathological until late in this century, and about the sorts of discrimination and bias enforced by the heterosexist community, and about the unique developmental pathways these individuals experience, intolerance seems to float away.
Go to some event at Coming Out Week and remember that this is just a week of a feeling that needs to persist perennially, that the way everyone acts this week should be the norm, and not one week out of fifty-two.
Opinion Editor, Miami Hurricane