Not enough acceptance for LGBTQ students on campus

Scout Najpaver, Contributing writer

October is LGBTQ+ history month, yet as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel as if there is not much being done to embrace and support us. I believe the solution is to better commemorate the history of how much the community has grown in the past few decades. Of course we have the wonderful SAGA club and sometimes we have lectures voicing and lobbying for equality, however so far there has been a strange lack of LGBTQ+ education. For example, if you asked students on campus about the Stonewall Riots or who Marsha P. Johnson was, do you think they would be able to confidently answer? Would they be astonished by how many of their peers are part of the community?Considering how many students on campus would consider themselves to fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, it is easy for these students to form alliances just as students who fall under shared similarities tend to click better. But often times these students will still face some form of discrimination amongst their peers at some point during their career. For each step taken forward, there are three steps taken back. Whether this has to do with the current political climate or maybe the issues lie further within prejudice and how some were brought up, LGBTQ+ discrimination is still an ongoing problem.According to a 2022 survey done by the AAU on sexual assault and misconduct, 60% of LGBTQ+ students said that they feared for their safety on campus due to their gender identity or how they are perceived on campus. 65% of those students have experienced harassment when they first entered college. Having more than half of a marginalized community express safety concerns about a place that should feel exactly like home leaves nothing but the heavily dire need for improvement.This begs the question of how we, as a Mercyhurst community, can stop the issues and further work towards an equal future alongside the LGBTQ+ community. Firstly—and I cannot stress this enough—it would be beneficial for historical resources to be shared via news sources, fun facts, events—anything that teaches students about the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community has gone through to get to this point. We need to emphasize that getting to this point of living out and about amongst the public was paved by many notable icons and events such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Stonewall riots and same-sex legalization. Obtaining rights was not an overnight accomplishment that secured rights for all, rather this was the beginning of a battle that leads up to today in the present.Personally, I know what it is like to be discriminated against. As someone who identifies as both bisexual and gender non-conforming, it feels like a hassle to try and explain to others how I identify and having to explain why I identify as such. Many times I am shut out before it even begins with judgmental looks, hostile reactions or jests poking fun at the stereotypes within my community. I want these to change. I want to be able to be fully accepted in my home, by my peers, free from judgment. I want to feel safe and that I have allies wherever I turn. This future is unobtainable without cooperation from my fellow students and much needed change.