An international movement dedicated to eliminating LGBTQ discrimination and prejudice is gaining traction in the United States thanks to the work being done by two students at Slippery Rock University.
Jocelyne Lemay, a junior integrated marketing communications major, and Kelsey Graham, senior public relations major, are operating the first American branch of GetREAL, an organization originally founded in Canada in early 2011. The movement aims to “change the face of what it means to be a young person who stands up against LGBTQ discrimination.”
“The movement consists of university students across Canada and now the United States who speak to high school students about unlearning LGBTQ discrimination and bullying, and the importance of embracing everyone,” Lemay said.
Lemay, who is originally from Nova Scotia, recently came across Instagram photos of students at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who were involved with GetREAL. After discovering that the organization united the StFX campus community, she began the process of bringing GetREAL to Slippery Rock. While still early in the planning stages, Lemay and Graham hope to involve more students throughout the semester in order to become formally recognized by the Student Government Association as a campus club.
“Especially with myself being a hopeful senior next year, I need a base team under me to keep GetREAL alive here at Slippery Rock,” Lemay said. “Once we are a recognized club on campus, we would like to host a presentation on GetREAL and LGBTQ/bullying issues and really get students talking about those hot topics we seem to be avoiding in today’s culture.”
Future goals for GetREAL at Slippery Rock include having a team of students comfortable with and capable of speaking to high school students on LGBTQ/bulling issues, sharing their own personal stories, and helping to spread the educational messages the broader GetREAL community stands for.
“We want to strive to have a strong presence on campus, so that whenever you see a student wearing one of our signature pink hats, you don’t wonder what GetREAL is, you’ll already know,” Lemay said.
Partnering with RockOUT is also an aspiration for the organization, according to Lemay. She said that both organizations are built on the premise of embracing everyone regardless of their identity, and both Lemay and Graham said they hoped to sponsor future events while connecting with RockOUT.
“I think that this campus has the potential to grow into a very accepting place where people can feel free to be themselves,” Graham said. “One of the biggest things that GetREAL will give to SRU is the courage and confidence to allow our students to be themselves and be comfortable in their own skin. Spreading awareness and encouraging more tolerant behavior is something that we aim to do. Connecting with people on a personal level and respecting each other is what the GetREAL movement is all about.”
GetREAL has grown from four founders to a team whose numbers span into the hundreds over multiple universities, and the movement as a whole strives to “change both language and attitudes.”