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Monday, November 19, 2018

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Homosexual student organization pushes for change in UH policy


Ann Arnold arrived at the University last semester, and felt overwhelmed in the big city and on the big campus. She came from College Station, a pea-sized town compared to Houston. Arnold, a theater freshman, wanted to feel connected in this sprawling campus, and wanted a support base that would accept her: she is a lesbian.

"I’ve known about my sexuality when I was 16 and I came out to my parents then, too – it was no big deal," she said, "But I went to a private school where you just didn’t come out to anyone. I needed a safe place where I could talk about myself and have a place where other people want to know you for who you are."

The Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Alliance (GLOBAL) is a social and support group for students who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender at UH. GLOBAL members welcome everyone to its weekly meetings regardless of sexual orientation.

"The group is about letting other people know that we are people -- not just individuals who are identified by stereotypes of a specific sexual orientation," Arnold said.

One of the primary goals for the group is to foster a safe haven for anyone, she continued, gesturing to emphasize this point.

"It’s the complete opposite of ‘Don’t ask. Don’t tell’ where the policy doesn’t care what you are," she said. "We ask, and we care – of whatever the answer may be."

For Phill Stout, an English junior, another important factor for the existence of GLOBAL is for educating the general public on LGBT issues, such as crimes committed against individuals who belong to the LGBT stratum.

"It’s kind of a sad thing to know but there are still some people who see (LGBT people) as second-class citizens," he said. "Many have this idea on what they are and they’re supposed to be. What we’re trying to do is to educate them and tell (the public) that not every gay person is some sort of stereotype."

The FBI reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation made up the third-largest group category of crimes reported in 2007, at 15.5 percent of all hate crimes reported that year.

While national and international organizations such as Human Rights Campaign pursue and put forth equal rights legislation for the LGBT community, GLOBAL has pushed for legislation at the university level.

The Student Government Association Senate passed a bill that called for a re-evaluation of UH’s non-discrimination clause to include transgender and transsexual individuals, The Daily Cougar reported in March. The bill amending the discrimination clause to include transgender and transsexual people was unanimously approved by SGA. The legislation is still pending approval from UH President Renu Khator.

Members of GLOBAL, such as English sophomore Chris Busby, said they believe approval of this bill is a good measure for the University to take, since other minorities are also protected under the law.

Gender, sexual orientation or how people identify themselves sexually – none of these things should matter as they don’t affect your work performance or how you perform as a student, Busby said.

"You can’t discriminate against someone based on race or religion – why should this be any different?" Busby asked.

Putting the social and political aspects of the group aside, Stout said the friendships and connections made with this group are the best thing he has received during his time with GLOBAL.

"Years from now when I’ve graduated from college and moved on to different things, I’m pretty sure that I will still keep in touch with these guys that I’ve befriended – they are friendships that go way beyond this campus," he said.


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