Starting Monday, SpectrUM will be hosting their annual Pride Awareness Week advocating the organization’s mission to “celebrate diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity” across campus.
The week’s events will include marriages on the Rock, a panel discussion about the intersection among religion and beliefs, sexuality and ethics and, for the first time, a campus-wide day of silence.
The organization is inviting the UM community to take a vow of silence on Thursday to mirror the silencing effect on the LGBT community that results from hate crimes, harassment and bullying in schools.
“Remaining silent for a day allows the UM community the chance to not only give a voice to LGBT issues, but [to help] raise people’s awareness who might otherwise never consider the struggles and hardships of a community that is so often stigmatized,” said senior Taeketra Haynes, SpectrUM historian.
In comparison to other countries, the United States is one of the more legally progressive nations when it comes to LGBT issues. In fact, in the state of Florida, hate crimes are illegal, and in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, domestic partnerships are recognized.
But despite the advancements that the United States has made in legalizing acceptance of the LGBT community, society is still slow to welcome those with an unconventional sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Such harassment toward women and people of color is publicly decried nowadays, but there seems to be a general consensus in our society at large that it is still okay to harass gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and generally ‘different’ kids and youth,” said Dr. Gema Perez-Sanchez, an associate professor of Spanish. Perez-Sanchez is an out lesbian faculty member who specializes in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer studies, typically in relation to Spain.
According to an online study by Harris Interactive, nine of out 10 LGBT elementary school students have actually experienced harassment in a school environment. At the college level, LGBT students are equally susceptible to harassment from their peers, according to Campus Pride’s 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.
“I have experienced hate crimes both within and outside of the UM community and they are similar in multiple ways,” Haynes said. “However, the hate crimes I have experienced here at UM are even more striking because we as a university pride ourselves on our diversity and acceptance.”
The absence of toleration on UM’s campus is not only seen in the form of harassment, but also in the inability of an LGBT student to express their sexual orientation or gender identity out of fear or risk of eventual persecution.
“Because UM is in a metropolitan area that is known for its gay life, and the student body is so diverse, there is a really wonderful ease with people being very different from one another,” said Dr. Brenna Munro, an assistant professor of English who often teaches classes in for the women and gender studies program. “However, I think that the majority of student culture on campus is nonetheless pretty heterosexist, and that there’s probably a good deal of homophobia out there.”
Munro believes this discrepancy is evident in student behavior.
“I definitely see boys policing each other’s performances of masculinity and trying hard not to seem ‘homo,’” Munro said. “I have never seen a public display of affection of the romantic kind on campus between two male students and I have only seen two girls who seemed to be romantically involved holding hands once.”
There is also a lack of room for the expression of gender nonconformity. Munro noted that, on a campus with only two gender-neutral bathrooms, transgender students may be subject to hostility.
In order to evade the possibility of oppressing LGBT students, junior Paige Giusfredi, SpectrUM president, thinks that education of the UM community is a necessity.
“The problem [at UM] is not homophobia but simply ignorance,” Giusfredi said. “Ignorance can hurt just as much as bullying.”
Perez-Sanchez thinks that while it is the responsibility of the LGBT community to educate others, the non-LGBT population must also actively seek education.
“LGBTQ individuals are not only a statistically significant group of citizens, but traditionally have contributed enormously to the advancement of knowledge, culture, research, politics, and in general, North American democracy. We need to be cherished, encouraged and supported, just as much as non-LGBTQ members of society,” Perez-Sanchez said. “Homophobia and transphobia not only damage LGBTQ students; they damage the whole fabric of our university community.”
Alexa Lopez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pride Awareness Week
Monday-Wednesday: Tunnel of Oppression from 4-9 p.m. in the UC Ballrooms
Thursday: Day of Silence; SpectrUM will be tabling in the UC Breezeway between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and will be distributing duct tape to wear as X’s.
Thursday: Sexuality and Faith: A Conversation; at 8 p.m. in LC 190.
Friday: Marriages on the Rock, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday: SpectrUM will be walking in the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade and Festival down Ocean Drive
Check out the SpectrUM Facebook group for more information on events.