Michelle Bechen – for the Lorian
The Loras College Gay/Straight Alliance began in 2003 by becoming the first student organization for LGBTQ students. As the moderator for The Alliance for 14 years, I’ve seen the organization change and grow, providing different ways to support and advocate for students who may not have a voice. At the time, that group of students didn’t realize exactly how much of a difference and history they were making on and off campus.
Besides facilitating a weekly support group, we started Ally/Safe Zone training for students, faculty and staff. Our goal was to educate the campus on issues LGBTQ students might experience and show our students that we support them. We also presented at an LGBTQ conference on how we started this type of group on a Catholic Campus. We traveled to Des Moines to lobby legislators and pass legislation on issues related to bullying and sexual orientation/gender identity. We advocated with Social Work students to have sexual orientation added to the Loras College non-discrimination policy. We worked with local high schools and the Dubuque community to bring awareness and education that we so desperately needed.
Loras College made history on Oct. 6, 2017 by officially hosting a reception for our LGBTQ alumni at The Smokestack. This was made possible by a donor who reached out to us a few years ago and has since turned into one of our strongest advocates and support system for all LGBTQ students and Allies. There were over 60 alumni, current students, faculty and staff in attendance. We still have a lot of work to do. There are kids attempting and committing suicide from being bullied for their sexual orientation/gender identity. We have current students who don’t feel supported. And there are mandates at the Federal level attacking the rights of LGBTQ people in the military, at schools and at their places of employment. The Alliance has every intention of continuing to support, educate and advocate for all students, but we need your support. Specifically, we need faculty and students who identify as allies of the LGBTQ community to unite with us to strengthen our presence on campus and to help us spread our message of love and tolerance. The voice of many will always be louder than the voice of the few.
October is LGBTQ History Month, and the Loras Alliance hosted two Ally Trainings focusing on educating members of the Loras community to become safe people to talk to about the issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity. More information can be found on the Loras Alliance Facebook page.