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LGBT Issues on Campus

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LGBT Issues on Campus
by Maria Panskaya

Kingsborough faculty and staff held a meeting under the leadership of Steven Amarnick, associate professor in the English Department, where they discussed various Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) issues and incidents on campus. 

There are many LGBT students on campus; some of who do not feel comfortable, because of who they are. They don’t feel secure telling anyone their sexual orientation. Prof. Amarnick and other professors are trying to find a solution to this problem.

Caterina Pierre, associate professor of Art History, said, “In my art history classes we study such people as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, who had a relationship with each other and it comes out in a number of works. You cannot say they were not together because there are some biographical references with the key understanding of who they are.” 

Many professors agreed that talking about homosexuality in a classroom is appropriate if it fits the discussion.

“There are many positive opportunities to insert homosexuality in all classes and that would make a positive educational experience,” said Professor Amarnick. 

It would get people thinking in u nexpected ways. However, there will always be some students who will be uncomfortable and would complain privately.

Attitudes towards gays and lesbians differ from culture to culture. For example, students from the Middle East and Central Asia view things differently from Americans. James Phillips of KELI/CLIP and the Continuing Education department said, “One of my students once saw someone walking down the hall and said, ‘He must be gay’. And he determined it by the way the person looked and walked.” There is no specific way that gay people walk and look. People sitting next to you in a classroom could be homosexual and you wouldn’t know. 

“In our day, the expression ‘It is so gay’ was widely used. You hear it on television and radio. No matter who you are, gay or straight, people should not use it with each other. In any context it’s wrong,” said James Phillips. Even though people are trying to make a joke out of it, it still contains a negative connotation. 

Some students come to Kingsborough from strict schools and it is their first exposure to liberal situations and discussions on such issues as these. Prof. Amarnick said, “People may be ignorant and it’s a part of our job to help them become less ignorant, less homophobic.” 

The population of Kingsborough is remarkably large and shouldn’t be surprising to meet gay or transsexual people in a classroom. In order to avoid misunderstanding, some professors stopped calling students by gender (Mr or Ms). “If a student wants to identify as male or female we have to respect that,” said Prof. Amarnick.

There are always students who won’t be comfortable with their sexual orientation and Kingsborough professors should try to help them to overcome these difficulties and to make them feel more comfortable and secure in the college environment.