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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    LGBTA Reaches Out to Overcome Ongoing Obstacles

    During an information fair for incoming students threeyears ago, The U.S. Army recruitment table was set up next to the Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, Transgender Alliance table.’ Throughout the day, tensionsbetween the two groups could be felt until they finally came to a breakingpoint.’ A member of the alliance sneezed, and one of the men from theArmy’s table said, ‘?The fag probably forgot to take his AIDSmedicine.’

    LowellKane, current president of the alliance, said that LGBTA members felt that thatsuch an incident might occur again. ‘?All the Army recruiters had to do,’Kane said, ‘?was write a half-hearted letter of apology, but we were leftwondering whether these kind of stereotypes still existed among students.’He also worried how these stereotypes would affect the organization.

    Butsince becoming president in 2000, Kane has been surprised to find that the Armyincident would be the last serious opposition that the alliance would face onthe Stony Brook campus.

    TheLGBTA was established at Stony Brook University in 1974. According to StonyBrook’s LGBTA website, it is currently the oldest gay organization thatis still running.’

    Thealliance, which does not ask individual members about their sexual preference,welcomes all people, regardless of sexuality.

    Kaneand his co-president, Matt Napolitano say they raised the membership of thecampus chapter from roughly 25 people in 2000 to nearly 60 people three yearslater.

    ‘?Ourapproach for reaching out to students is to go around to classrooms and dormsand let people know that we exist and are welcoming of anyone who needs help orwants to support,’ Kane said.’ During the two years they have beenusing this as a method to get members, Kane said they have not yet had a badexperience. And even campus police said that in the last year they have not hadany reports of violent crimes that were committed based on sexual orientation.

    Manystudents throughout campus seem to agree that being gay is no longer a bigissue.’

    ‘?Itseems like there is so much information about gay issues that a lot of thestereotypes people once had are slowly beginning to go away,’ said SarahJames a third-year student at Stony Brook.’ James admitted that beforecoming to Stony Brook, she was ignorant about many of the issues facing the gaycommunity.’ But since attending the university, and becoming friends withgay students, she said that she has now ‘?gained an understanding of theproblems that many gay students must deal with’ and she feels she hasbecome more tolerant as a result.

    Evenmany students who said they were ‘?opposed to homosexuality’ agreedthat everyone has the right to speak about what they believe in.’ DamienJohnson, a second-year student, said that even though he has always viewedhomosexuality as being sinful, ‘?having freedom of speech is one of thebest things about this country, even if you don’t agree with what theperson has to say.’

    Themost promising sign that a real alliance between the gay and straightcommunities may one day exist is the appearance of members like Rita Zusman, aheterosexual member of the alliance.’

    Zusmansaid she joined the organization because several of her friends were part of itand she wanted to show her support for the gay community.’ Although shehas had mostly positive reactions from both members and non-members of thealliance, she says she experienced some unfriendliness from the club membersthemselves because she is one of the only straight members.’ The biggestproblem she experienced was the fear that she may break the only rule that thealliance has, which is the confidentiality of membership.’

    ‘?Oneof my friends who has still not come out was so shocked and worried to seeme,’ Zusman said. ‘?He was afraid I would out him.’

    Shealso acknowledged that despite the support she has from her straight friends,many of them questioned her purpose in joining.

    Sheresponds ‘?If people really want to know why I care so much, it’sbecause I really think I can make a difference in bridging whatever gap therestill exists between the two communities, something that I already see happeningand it’s really encouraging.’

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