Tolerance is not enough: addressing LGBT life on campus

Certainly, Johnson State has made some progress as far as the state of life for the LGBT community goes. There is now an LGBT oriented club on campus; a discussion was raised a year ago about how essential it is to keep the current gender neutral bathrooms on campus—as well as adding a few if possible—and there has certainly, seemingly, been an increase of LGBT identified people on campus, as well as a concern for making Johnson State a safe place for all of us.

I am currently a graduate student, and as such, this is my fifth year at Johnson State, and while we’ve made progress, it is my belief, as a gay student, that JSC has a long way to go. I have had numerous conversations with students, who either have been entirely apathetic to LGBT issues altogether, or who hold inaccurate, hurtful, and destructive opinions in regard to these issues.

I would consider Johnson to be tolerant. However, I would like to discuss the word tolerance for a second, and what it means. Tolerance is, simply put, putting up with something, someone, or a group of people. Tolerance of the LGBT community, and other marginalized groups, while better than intolerance, should absolutely not be the end goal at JSC. I would much prefer Johnson State, to strive for creating a welcoming environment for LGBT students. A community where students feel not simply tolerated, but loved, appreciated, and cared about. I would much prefer Johnson State strive to be an open community, where people can explore various identities, whatever they may be, as well as a place where students who are already aware of who they are can openly express themselves. I would much prefer Johnson state be an enlightened community, one where LGBT people know that they are surrounded by genuine allies, who are knowledgeable about issues that affect them, and who strive to work hand in hand with these students to create a positive, open, and empowering environment for the entire campus community. I would much prefer that JSC be an inclusive community, one where no student feels excluded because of their orientation, gender, physical or learning disability, ethnicity, G.P.A., or anything else.

I am aware that many believe we are already there, that JSC has achieved being an LGBT friendly campus, and while I respect that opinion fully, as a part of that community, I cannot help but express that I do not believe that we are there yet. I do feel, however, that we can get there. I believe if we could increase lectures and information sessions on LGBT related issues on campus, that this would help. I believe also, that it would help to have an LGBT support group on campus, which would provide, in my opinion, some much needed support for the Johnson LGBT community. I believe we need to have some sort of forum for students to gather to express their opinions on various groups or plans that could improve life for LGBT students on campus. I believe that we all need to work together, if we want Johnson to be a truly open, and welcoming community for LGBT students, as well as for all marginalized groups, and possibly most importantly, I believe that this JSC is possible.