Saturday, February 12, 2011

GSA not just for gays

Gay-Straight Alliance is a student organization at the University of West Florida that is open to anyone of any sexual orientation.

Their purpose is “bridging the gap between the gay and straight community,” says Liz Southworth, the president of GSA.

GSA is planning on hosting a myriad of new events this year including getting into politics.

“We had ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the Florida gay adoption ban as the big news stories over the past couple of months,” Southworth says.

Besides getting into politics, GSA also has special nights such as Stitch and Bitch every other Thursday, book club every other Thursday, and exercise your rights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

“I go to every meeting and every event that I can,” junior applied mathematics major, Kayla Wankowski says. “And now I’m doing exercise your rights every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the gym. It was a program started about a year ago just to get more GSA members active and practice wellness.”

GSA is also planning a week long art gallery for later on during the spring semester which will include student artwork along with photography and other specific galleries brought to campus.

“Currently, we have lots of projects we’re working on,” Southworth says. “The big one that’s going to happen is the gallery week we have planned coming up. It’s basically a week dedicated to what we’re calling ‘Art for Equality and Diversity.’ There’s going to be student projects, we’re doing a big ‘No Hate,’ ‘It Gets Better’ night and we’re using ‘Art for AIDS Awareness’ which is a community-based organization.”

The biggest program GSA will be putting on this semester will be the Ally program.

“The Ally program is a diversity training program that we do annually here at UWF,” Southworth says. “What it’s aimed at is to provide safe places on campus that people could go to, say if they’re going through the coming out process or even if they’re somebody who’s a straight ally whose friend is going through the coming out process and they don’t know how to deal with it. This way we have people trained to help people go through those issues. We try to aim it at faculty, staff, and students.”

GSA meetings are held every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. upstairs in room 272 in the Commons. They welcome everyone.

“We provide a safe place for LGBT youth and questioning people,” GSA vice president Aileen Mayato says. “We’re all inclusive, so it’s not just for people who are gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender. We do accept all people, we really like our straight allies.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A new year for gay rights

It’s a new year and the fight for full equality will not slow down as a predominantly Republican congress moves in.

There were a couple of triumphs in 2010 to be proud of, I would like to point out.

In September, a Florida appeals court completely threw out the ban on gay adoptions. For over 30 years, gay men and women could not adopt in the state of Florida, Sept. 22 will definitely be remembered as a happy day for many gay couples wanting kids. The court ruled the ban on gay adoption was unconstitutional.

Then, another huge advancement was on Dec. 18, during winter break. We were all most likely home with our families when it was announced that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law was finally repealed after a long struggle through congress and senate. I watched with my father as each senator spoke their vote with a final 65 for repeal, 31 against repeal. I then checked to see how Florida’s senators voted and was ashamed to say George LeMieux is one of our senators. I saw he voted against the repeal and right away sent him an e-mail stating I was very disappointed in him for his vote. I have yet to get an e-mail back, even though I did ask for a response. I then e-mailed Bill Nelson to thank him for his continued support for LGBT rights.

It was a great day to watch Barack Obama sign the repeal of DADT on Dec. 22. It was a nice Christmas present to all the gay soldiers fighting in the war still hiding their identity. Even though it is not completely in effect, just yet. It will not go into full effect until Defense Secretary and Congress sign off that the military is prepared to put in a repeal and then it will be 60 long days until the ban is officially taken out of the law books. It’s been 17 years too long.

I think this past year was fantastic. The fight was tough and long and we’re not finished yet. Next fight…marriage equality.

Happy New Year GSA!! Let 2011 be even bigger and better than 2010!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Suicide Awareness

Nine known suicides all within one month. September. All guys ranging in age 13-19. Bullied for being gay or perceived of being gay.

Billy Lucas, 15, died Sept. 9

Cody Barker, 17, died Sept. 13

Tyler Clementi, 18, died Sept. 22

Asher Brown, 13, died Sept. 23

Harrison Brown, 15, died Sept. 25

Seth Walsh, 13, attempted suicide on Sept. 19 and was on life support for little over a week. He officially died on Sept. 28 after being taken off life support.

Raymond Chase, 19, died Sept. 29

Felix Sacco, 17, died Sept. 29

Caleb Nolt, 14, died Sept. 30

Bad things usually happen in 3s. This has happened nine times that we know of. There were probably more that weren’t publicized. Only five of these were publicized everywhere in great detail. Anti-gay bullying is one of those issues that needs to be taken care of now and today. It can no longer be put on the back burner.

Bullying is something everyone has gone through at some point in their lives, even I’ve been bullied. Just now with facebook and other social network sites, bullies have become bolder, and it’s become easier to spread words of hate about another person.

If you’re being bullied, you shouldn’t get discouraged because there is help out there. There’s The Trevor Project which is an organization “determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including our nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.”

If you feel like you are being bullied and you don’t know how to handle the situation, call The Trevor Project’s suicide hotline at 1-866-U-TREVOR.

Dan Savage is also the creator of the “It gets better” project. He, along with his partner, posted a video on youtube on Sept. 21 after the first suicides, telling teens to not choose suicide because it does get better.

“However bad it is now, it gets better and it can get great, it can get awesome and your life can be amazing but you have to tough this period of it out and you have to live your life until you’re around for it to get amazing and it will,” Savage said.

With over 1 million hits on youtube, the “It gets better” video has spread like wildfire. Celebrities and people from all over the US have recorded their own stories letting everyone know it gets better with time.

Oct. 20 was also “Wear purple day” which was organized in remembrance of the recent suicides. Many students around the US wore purple to recognize the tragedies that had happened during September.

Bullying can carry on into college past middle and high school. At any time that you may feel overwhelmed due to bullying, please call The Trevor Project or call the Counseling and Wellness Center at 850-474-2420 or call the Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE. And again, I am always here to help and can be contacted at any time via e-mail at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hey Everyone!!!

GSA: It’s the Gay-Straight Alliance. It’s not just a “gay” club; it needs its straight allies as well, otherwise it wouldn’t work. One of those straight allies is me. My name is Joslyn, and I’ll be GSA’s Public Relations coordinator for this year. As this is my first blog, I would like to introduce myself to all of you.

This will be my junior year at UWF and my second year as a member of GSA. I’m a print journalism major, and you can see some of my writing and photography in The Voyager, as I am a contributing writer.

I’m full Puerto Rican, originally from the Bronx. I now reside in Ft. Lauderdale when not at school. If you need to find me randomly, I’ll most likely be in Argo Hall where I live and work as a Student Desk Assistant. I have also just been sworn in as one of two Marketing Coordinators in Student Government Association.

As a part of my PR position, I make sure that The Voyager is notified about any important upcoming events. If the event is worthy of local coverage, I will contact the Pensacola News Journal. I will also try to write on this blog every other week, so look forward to a new one in two weeks! The next blog will either be about the new Archie comic character (he’s fabulous) or the premiere of the second season of Glee.

One last thing, if you would like to contact me, my e-mail is I’m always online and I should get back to your e-mail pretty quickly. This is going to be a great year and I hope all of you come out to our meetings and events.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

UWF GSA Encourages Students to Speak Out on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - Christine Thomas

It isn’t easy for me to wake up before noon on any given day—and that’s being generous. So, when Stephen Loveless, our GSA President, asked for volunteers to help set up over 800 flags on the Cannon Greens this morning, I wasn’t the first to volunteer for this 8AM shift. Sitting through our Executive Board meeting on Monday night and planning out the events that would lead up to UWF hosting the Human Rights Campaign’s Voices of Honor tour on Wednesday, however, made me a little more enthusiastic about pulling myself out of bed this morning.

I was only about 10 minutes late, and as soon as I arrived, I set to work with about twenty other GSA members setting small American flags in the ground. Each flag represents one of the 800 specialists with vital skills who have been discharged from the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy—this is a small fraction of the 13,500 servicemen who have been discharged overall since the policy was enacted in 1992. After about two hours, we had finally finished the visual aid of today’s event.

The rest of the afternoon, volunteers worked with two goals in mind. First, a station was set-up at which passers-by could briefly fill out a postcard that the Human Rights Campaign will be sending in to Florida Senator Bill Nelson in order to show him that there is vast opposition to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in his region. In a more immediate effort, a second station was dedicated to asking students walking by the Cannon Greens to take two minutes out of their lives to call Bill Nelson’s office and personally urge the Senator to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (While callers might not reach the Senator directly, Bill Nelson’s receptionist makes a tally each time a constituent calls the office to share his or her opinion.)

Several of us ventured to the sidewalks, University Commons, and shady trees near the Cannon Greens to stop students, faculty, and staff on their way to class or lunch to solicit signatures and phone calls. Then, I brought a petition sheet to my Adulthood & Aging class to collect even more signatures to send to Senator Nelson. The Gay-Straight Alliance will also have a table set up in the Commons tomorrow before the big event at 7:00, when Voices of Honor will take place in the Conference Center at UWF.

Today alone, I’ve gotten to share details of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy with tens of people who were previously unsure what the legislation entails. Education and advocacy are extremely important to me, and particularly when it comes to this issue. One of my closest friends is a gay veteran, and it frustrates me beyond belief that his sexual orientation alone could jeopardize the stability of his military career. Thankfully, the members of my Gay-Straight Alliance have really gotten behind pushing for the repeal of DADT, promoting the Voices of Honor tour, and helping with everything else that the Human Rights Campaign has been advocating surrounding this issue. I’m extremely proud of the hard work everyone’s put into this issue in the past few weeks, and I’m confident that we are helping to make a difference.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gays in the Holocaust - Christine Thomas

As morbid as it sounds, the Holocaust is my favorite historical period to study. Ever since reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in middle school, I've been fascinated by the plight of those oppressed by the Nazi regime. Since I was in Washington, D.C., last weekend for an Honors conference, I decided to stop by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum--said to be one of the greatest in the world. Going through this museum and looking at each of the powerful exhibitions, I realized that, although many groups suffered at the hands of Hitler's army, the only people being featured in the museum were the Jewish victims. Being such an activist for LGBT awareness, I was frustrated and offended that those who wore the pink triangles and the black triangles were not being represented. In the gift shop, I did find one bookshelf primarily dedicated to the suffering of the homosexual males in concentration camps during World War II, but that was about it. What is it that makes the yellow star so much more important? Understandably, the Jews did make up the majority of the victims of the Holocaust, but the Jehovah's Witnesses, gypsies, communists, the disabled, the mentally ill, and so many others suffered greatly. We don't really get to hear much about that in the history books or, regrettably, in respectable historical museums.

Holocaust education isn't the only area in which Jewish oppression is seen as the only struggle worth noticing. When concentration camps were liberated in 1945 at the end of World War II, the only group not to be freed was comprised of homosexual males. Paragraph 175, anti-gay legislation in Germany, was still in effect during this time. Therefore, those who wore the pink triangle were forced to serve their full sentence for a "crime" they were accused of by Adolf Hitler. Seems logical, right? Although antisemitist attitudes began to change at the end of Hitler's reign, homophobic tendencies have only recently begun to possess the same taboo--and we still make excuses for or accept the opinions of those who express anti-gay sentiment. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

I encourage everyone to learn more about the forgotten victims of the Holocaust--including the "antisocial" lesbian bearers of the black triangle, and the gay men who were forced to wear the pink triangle. Here are a few resources you might wish to browse that will give you more information on LGBT suffering during World War II:
(Google related keywords... there are so many resources that I'd love to share!)

Gays in the Holocaust - James Goodson