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
“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,
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.