The President’s Commission on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation (GISO) recently created an interactive workshop for SRU students to learn more about the LGBT+ community. The workshop, LGBT 101, began running in January.
Co-chairs of GISO, Timothy Oldakowski and Deborah Schell both said the workshop was created and sponsored by GISO.
Oldakowski said the idea for the workshop came when an AVI director came to GISO with a conflict. Schell said the director wanted to educate his staff a little better on the LGBT+ community.
“Since they (AVI) serve the whole community, we thought, ‘what do we do,’” Oldakowski said. “We also know that Safe Zone Training is typically only offered once a year. We thought what could we do to educate and inform. It started with staff, but we thought, ‘what can we do for students?’”
Oldakowski said LGBT 101 provides students with information about LGBT+ terminology, as well as scenarios for people to discuss privileges that heterosexuals have that LGBT+ persons don’t. He said students also receive statistics at LGBT 101, as well as the opportunity to ask questions and share sources on campus that other students might benefit from. The workshop also talks about what being an LGBT+ ally really means.
Schell said GISO has now done the workshop with three different groups and received great feedback. She also said although the workshop is only two hours, compared to Safe Zone training being five hours, it is very interactive.
Safe Zone training is a workshop for faculty and staff seeking to support LGBT+ people. The workshop is only open to a select number of students.
At the end of Safe Zone training, all who participated receive a placard to put on their door, backpack or window to indicate that that person or office is LGBT+ friendly.
Some of the rules of the LGBT 101 workshop include no cell phones, keeping personal information confidential and sharing the floor so that everyone can talk. The rules also encourage participants to laugh, ask questions and reassure participants that it’s okay to change your mind about a statement.
Oldakowski said anyone can be trained to do the workshop and that the workshop is open to the university. Schell said GISO is going to start looking for more commission members to step up and participate in the workshop as well.
“We’re hoping to promote it a little bit better for next fall,” Schell said. “We don’t want to take away from our Coming Out Stars.”
Coming Out Stars is a simulation that GISO presents at FYRST Seminars that teaches freshmen what LGBT + persons can potentially lose when they come out.
During the simulation, every students is asked to choose a colored star. The students decorate the star, and on each point, they write someone or something of significance.
“We have a script, and we (ask) if (they) have a red star to close their eyes and listen and stand up in a circle,” Oldakowski said. “We tell them, you have just come out as an LGBT person and if you have a certain colored star, that person from your life doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, so tear that part off from your star.”
Oldakowski said they do that five times for each point, and at the end, people’s stars are either completely intact or turned into nubs.
“We ask how the students who have lost some (stars) or those of (them) who haven’t lost anything, how it feels,” Oldakowski said. “We’re not trying to say you will feel this way, but trying to show what can be lost. We dialogue after about how it felt and what it might be like to lose someone or a dream or a career.”
Schell said Coming Out Stars has been amazing to participate in. She recalled a time when one student had to tear their grandmother’s part of their star off, but put the piece in his pocket because he didn’t want to throw it on the floor.
“It’s very impactful, and it’s a great activity,” she said.
Oldakowski said students wanting to learn more about LGBT+ can always go to the Pride Center and RockOUT meetings. He said also students can talk to Health Promotion Coordinator Renee Batemen as well as contacting GISO or anyone with a Safe Zone training placard on their door or backpack.