It has been almost one year since Illinois became the sixth state to legitimize civil unions and domestic partnerships in June 2011, but the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is still campaigning for equal rights in the United States.
In an effort to raise awareness about the GLBT community at SIUC, the Saluki Rainbow Network and the GLBT Resource Center have collaborated to observe GLBT Awareness Week.
This week, the campus and community will celebrate with the theme, “Unity through Diversity,” hold a variety of events and unveil the new educational campaign, “Educate Before You Hate.”
The GLBT Awareness Week began about 25 years ago as a way to celebrate the Saluki Rainbow Network’s presence and efforts on campus, Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of GLBT Resource Center, said.
She said the week has events that focus on representing aspects not always seen as the public face of the GLBT community and highlighting the diversity and strength of the campus community.
Events include special performances in poetry and public speaking, a silent demonstration, two prom events, free STD testing and a cookout.
Ryan Conrad, a doctoral student in sexuality studies at Concordia University and co-founder of Against Equality, will present the keynote speech Thursday.
Against Equality, an online archive, publishing and arts collective, critiques mainstream gay and lesbian politics and challenges the politics of inclusion through hate crimes legislation, Conrad said.
The events and overall awareness-raising efforts on campus are possible through a collaboration between the Saluki Rainbow Network, which is a Registered Student Organization, the grant-funded GLBT Resource Center and several other campus departments such as University Housing, Weinhold said.
The creation of a safe place for members and allies of the GLBT campus community is an important part of what the Saluki Rainbow Network and the GLBT Resource Center strive to do, Wyatt Humrichous, vice president of Saluki Rainbow Network, said.
“We want people to be able to come to us when they’re seeking information, resources or support,” Humrichous said.
He said the new educational campaign, “Educate Before You Hate,” conveys the message that being a member of the GLBT community is OK, and members can be successful in life.
Posters can be seen around campus in support of the campaign that feature 14 individuals of various ethnicities, races and genders that represent a cross-section of the United States’ GLBT community, Weinhold said.
The campaign’s purpose is to let people see that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are just like any other group of people, she said, and there are GLBT people in all realms of communities.
“We’re hoping the posters, which are just one aspect of the campaign, can be inspirational,” Weinhold said. “Somebody who may be a member of the GLBT community could see a poster of the first elected lesbian sheriff in Dallas, Texas, and think, ‘You know what? I could be her someday.’”
Humrichous said he hopes the posters also convey that it is OK to support the GLBT community.
If a person acts as an ally, he said, he or she is considered part of the community.
“Allies are vital in our community because without them, it would be difficult to make stands and progress as time goes on,” Humrichous said.
Weinhold said the primary mission of the GLBT Resource Center is to educate.
She said she hopes the campaign and awareness week will provide the campus and the southern Illinois community an opportunity to think about how much the concerns of the GLBT community are concerns of humanity.
“It’s important for the student body to educate themselves, because this is our world,” she said. “Taxes, adoption, the ability to feel safe when you’re walking down the street, the ability to rent property, the ability to express love for someone are all human rights. They are rights that all of us should be able to access and value.”