LGTBQ+ ally training to be held at MU in near future

Mackenzie Zent, Opinion Editor

Mercyhurst was scheduled to host an LGBTQIA Allies Training on Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Unfortunately, this event had to be canceled due to the presenters being sick, however the school has hosted many of these trainings before. The coordinator, Father Jim Piszker, university chaplain, explained that they have not had an ally training since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he is hopeful he will be able to get them started again soon. The program initially started in 2011 when a student brought it to Fr. Piszker’s attention that all of Mercyhurst’s neighboring schools had them, but we did not. After looking into it more, Fr. Piszker asked permission from the administration as well as the Bishop of Erie to do the program, and once he got the go ahead, he began the training sessions. During the hour and a half, staff will be educated on the basic understandings of human sexuality, and the psychology that goes along with it. This aspect is so important because it helps those not in the community understand that it really is not a choice to be gay or transgender. It also shows that being in the LGBTQ+ community is a lot more common than they may think. During the training they will also be given ways and information on how to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Many people do not know all of the challenges that come with being gay or transgender, so they do not know how to support them. It is through programs like this that people become more aware and have a better understanding of how to help those belonging to this community. After the staff members complete the training, they receive a place card for their office door to demonstrate to students that they are safe to be exactly who they are around that staff member and in their office. This offers a lot of comfort to students who might feel like they do not belong or are not welcomed, especially at a Catholic school. There are many students who hide who they are for fear of being discriminated against or treated badly by the school or their friends. Even just seeing a “safe space” sticker outside an office door can make students feel more secure. When asked why Mercyhurst does this program, Fr. Piszker said that part of the Catholic Social Teaching is the dignity of the person. This means making sure every student feels safe and fulfilled while they are a student here. When this program started, the LGBTQ+ community at Mercyhurst was experiencing a bit of negative feedback. This is another reason the ally training program was put in place— with the hopes that it would help those having negative experiences feel more accepted here. While an hour and a half of learning about LGBTQ+ issues may not seem like the most exciting way to spend free time, it really does go a long way with those in the community. Just knowing that people care enough to educate themselves and learn about experiences they do not personally have can make a huge difference to those who feel alone.