GATHER offers a safe place for GLBT students
October is the national month for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) issues. Controversial issues on the ballot – like Referendum I, which would extend some rights to same-sex couples – have prompted The Campus Press to take a small, introspective look at the GLBT community.
The campus community offers the student population many comfortable environments. One of these is a weekly support group called GLBTQA’s Advancing Toward Harmony and Equal Rights (GATHER). Every Monday at 6:30 p.m., students of different sexual orientations gather and try to create a comforting atmosphere. Grant Scovel, GATHER’S leader and a junior business and theater major, has promised his weekly attendees complete confidentiality and respect, so The Campus Press was politely declined permission to attend an actual session.
“Many people that come to the group are not sure of their sexuality and would rather keep their attendance and participation within complete confidentiality,” Scovel said.
Scovel provided some insight into the deepest concerns of both GATHER and the GLBT community.
“One of the biggest reasons it’s hard for kids to come out is the basic issue of acceptance. Many students are afraid of being rejected by friends, family and the general community,” he said. “There have been many people who’ve decided to come out to their friends and then been disassociated by them as a result. That can be extremely difficult to deal with.”
Scovel said GATHER’s aim is to try to make meetings as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. He thought “support group” was a silly term that made it sound like the attendees had a problem – somehow comparable to members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“We really try to make it more of a social atmosphere, and if anybody has a specific issue to discuss, we try to make them as comfortable as possible so they can share their problems,” Scovel said. “Comfort is key with us, since the students may not get it anywhere else.”
Some groups are more politically active. Voices supporting reform and gay rights are at work to establish legitimacy for the GLBT community in mainstream debates.
“We’ve been getting a lot of support over the years, and it’s taken a lot of work, but there are still a lot of challenges,” said Stephanie Wilenchek, director of the GLBT resource center. “Many people still think GLBT issues just aren’t that important and feel like our issues are forced onto them. But we still receive a lot of university support. I don’t feel like we’re alone.”
The notion of diversity in general has been a progressively heated concern in the campus community and continues to be fiercely debated. Wilenchek said racial controversy can overshadow sexual orientation prejudice.
“We’re not as identifiable as many of the other minority groups, so that tends to make us a bit more invisible sometimes, because people can’t pick us out as easily,” Wilenchek said.
If Referendum I passes this November, it would be a big step toward establishing a higher level of acceptance in Colorado.
“As far as gay rights and Referendum I are concerned, those are just basic human rights,” said Adam Smith, a junior Japanese and East Asian languages and civilizations major. “They’re just people like everybody else.”