Second annual GLBT month begins Saturday

By Gus Bode

Judy Shepard, Jeanette Oxford keynote speakers

Carl Ervin said he received a wake-up call last year from a local resident, who reminded him that one group on campus was being left out of the diversity awareness efforts – gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender students.

Ervin, a coordinator for Student Development, said that call led the University to reserve October as GLBT Month for the first time last year.

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The University’s second annual GLBT Month begins Oct. 1. The month’s activities and speakers were organized to promote awareness and education about the culture and lifestyle of these students on campus.

The month will begin with a pride march in Saturday’s Homecoming parade. Later that day, a month-long showing of films begins at University Place 8 theatres across from the University Mall. The first film, “Saving Face,” is a romantic comedy about two lesbians’ journey toward accepting their lifestyles.

The highlight of the month is speaker Judy Shepard, whose son, Matthew Shepard, was killed because he was gay. Her speech, Ervin said, is intended to remind the community that the same homophobic hate that killed Matthew Shepard has not disappeared.

Acceptance is a problem facing gay students, said Leah Reinert, co-director for the Saluki Rainbow Network. The group helps gay students who may feel alone and unaccepted to find a sense of community within SIUC and have a connection with other students, said Reinert, a senior studying University studies from Decatur.

“A lot of the freshman come in not knowing other gay students,” Reinert said. “That’s what the students are looking for – a community.”

On Oct. 6, Missouri Rep. Jeanette Oxford will speak to the month’s theme of “Creating Community.” The discussion will focus on the controversy surrounding gay marriage.

Oxford graduated from SIUC in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. She is also an ordained minister.

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Ervin said one of the biggest fears shared by those heterosexuals is that attending the events will make them gay. Ervin said wanting to be educated about something will not change a person’s identity.

“If you’re Asian and you go to a black [event], you’re not black then,” Ervin said.

Ervin said he hopes students can put aside differences and fears and come together to celebrate the event.

Reporter Julie Engler can be reached at [email protected]

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