LGBT students need to come out and show their pride at MCCC

Written by: Zayvion Thompson

My name is Zayvion Thompson and I am proud openly bisexual male.I am currently a second year Communications and New Media major. I also come from a Jamaican Christian family that heavily frowns upon anything that’s not straight or seen as “normal.” My path to self acceptance hasn’t been easy. But I’m writing this to encourage other students to take that path, or to voice their presence more loudly on campus.

My worry is that since the 2013 Supreme Court rulings that allowed gays to get married and serve opening in the military, a lot of young people have gotten the impression that gay issues are over and done with, nothing more to worry about. In fact, there are plenty of kids like me from conservative families who are terrified to come out. Rates for suicide for LGBT teens is still far higher than for straight youth. We get bullied at far higher rates. Cassidy Wagner another Mercer student had this to say. “To be honest I’m scared of Trump’s supporters increasing the frequency of physical attacks on both the LGBT community and women because of what they see Trump doing and promoting. We went back half a century, man.”

Furthermore, with the new administration in the White House, the LGBT community faces the terror of seeing these hard fought rights disappear again in the blink of an eye. President Trump has stated numerous times that he is for “traditional marriage” and appointed Mike Pence as his Vice President. Pence thinks gays should go to “conversion therapy” a brutal practice that basically tries to un-gay people. He is openly hateful. Mike Pence is a specter that is keeping gays up at night.

When asked what fears people in the LGBT community at Mercer had in light of Trump’s election student Melissa Civale stated “I personally don’t have any fears. I have hopes that we will overcome any bathroom bills or marriage laws. I have hope that our community can generate a big enough image to the government that we are people too.” Cassidy Wagner another MCCC student had this to say. “To be honest I’m scared of Trump’s supporters increasing the frequency of physical attacks on both the LGBT community and women because of what they see Trump doing and promoting. We went back half a century, man.”

Fortunately pride flows through the LGBT community, and we are banding together to fight the new administration, but we are already losing ground. Just a few weeks ago we lost a major battle for trans kids to be able to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender while at school. The Supreme Court wouldn’t even bother with the case, just left it at the lower courts who had ruled against these much needed rights.

If you think these so-called “bathroom bills” are just a small issue facing a tiny handful of people, think again. They represent gender inequality and sexual discrimination issues across the spectrum. When you see the courts making these kinds of rulings, be assured that it’s just the start. Keep your eyes on other kinds of gender discrimination, like laws for equal pay, coverage for contraception on the new healthcare bill. These issues are all connected.

How does all this tie to us students at Mercer? Well, we’re going to have to get our LGBT group motivated, too. There are organizations like HiTOPS in Princeton that have been offering a safe space, teaching queer youth about sexual health, and helping teens know they are not alone.

As great as HiTOPS is they cannot do it all on their own, so what are we at MCCC doing to help?

In the past, Mercer has had quite an active LGBT club on campus. Back in 2012, the LGBT club held a “kiss in” event where students–queers and allies alike–convened in the lower Student Center and kissed in same sex pairs as part of a demonstration to raise awareness of LGBT issues.

That event–which only lasted about 10 minutes, and was part of similar events at college campuses nationwide–sparked considerable controversy on the Mercer campus. But in the end, it served its purpose. We made it very obvious that we are both here and queer.

More recently, in 2015, there was a transgender panel with several outside speakers that was a success despite vandalism of the flyers that were posted to advertise it.

Today, our campus LGBT group is fairly quiet, but I believe we can get back to our former glory. I get how terrifying coming out can be and I am not asking anyone to come out if it is not safe for them to do so, but our community really needs youth voices.

Trump and Pence are out to silence us but for the sake of our community and for the sake of myself I am not going to let him. And neither should you.

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Zayvion Thompson
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