When senior and acting club president for Open Conversations: GSA Katherine Bernard set up a question box about a week before a scheduled Q-and-A session for GSA Week, the intent was to have a safe way to submit questions, Bernard said. The response was less than ideal.
The club hosted the Q-and-A during Duvall Prime Time on Wednesday, April 16. There were no legitimate questions in the box. Six of the slips had the word “fag” in capital letters, one said “anal?” and one read “why, just why.”
“I wish we could say we’d been shocked, but none of us were surprised,” Bernard said.
Bernard said that while the Resident Assistants at the Prime Time seemed angry, she was saddened more than anything. To get such a childish response to their dedication in helping people understand these issues was frustrating, she said.
“I feel like we tried so hard to give people this opportunity to ask questions that we’re not going to get offended by,” Bernard said.
Senior Courtney Bagdon, secretary and treasurer for the club, said that they were able to use the incident as a talking point.
Bernard said she thinks that while slang words can still be very damaging, they are so common that it is easier to shake off.
“These words are losing their power,” Bernard said.
Bagdon said she sees the situation as a need to put on more events next year to raise greater awareness.
The remainder of the conversation at the Prime Time was excellent, Bernard said. It never reached the point of awkward silence, and attendees asked questions such as, “How is it different to fall in love with someone of the same sex?”
“We want to hear these types of questions, especially when they genuinely want to understand the answer,” Bernard said.
They also discussed what makes a good ally, a person who is not part of the LGBT community, but actively supports the movement, Bernard said.
“Being an ally doesn’t just mean being there when it’s convenient,” senior Chasen Shaw said.
Other events of GSA week included screening Rocky Horror Picture Show on Monday, sharing coming out stories on Tuesday and conversing with psychology professor Patricia Bruininks on Thursday. The Day of Silence took place Friday, April 11, in honor of those who have been bullied or alienated because of sexual orientation, for which those who participated did not speak all day.
In the conversation with Bruininks, Bagdon said that the small discussion group went over the events of the week, as well as the issues surrounding Whitworth’s non-discrimination clause.
ASWU received an anonymous letter encouraging a change in the hiring policy to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination clause. Members of ASWU discussed possible solutions over several weeks, but in the end decided to leave the issues for next year, when there will be more time to resolve them.
“I’m glad that people are taking notice and at least talking about it,” Bagdon said.
In addition, cultural events coordinator and senior Andriana Siefe and sustainability coordinator and senior Ashton Lupton attended a Power of One Conference in Salt Lake City, which focused on gender identities. One specific that Siefe and Lupton mentioned at the ASWU meeting on April 16 was the possibility of having more gender-neutral bathrooms at Whitworth.