With the presidential election rapidly approaching, it’s no surprise that is all we Tech students hear about. For me, this used to be an unfortunate annoyance: six months of political rhetoric and pandering is certainly enough to drive most people mad. This year, though, I seem to have taken an unusually vested interest in the outcome of the election.
While part of this preoccupation undoubtedly comes from the bright, shiny newness of participating in the political process (this is the first presidential election I have voted in), my primary interest surrounds what has become, likely, the most divisive campaign surrounding social issues. And, as a gay man, such issues hit incredibly close to home.
I know my one vote, especially considering I am a resident of Kentucky, a sure red state, will not sway the election in any direction. Many other students fall in this same boat. Regardless, there is a massive opportunity on Tech’s campus to affect change, and, hopefully, for the better.
Last week, the Technique’s consensus focused on the lack of a concrete support center for LGBTQ students. I was actually surprised when the topic of LGBTQ students on campus was brought up during our editorial board meeting; my experience on campus has been that of nearly total acceptance, but never had I encountered a group of allies willing to discuss and recommend solutions to a problem they were not directly a part of. I was not only touched, but motivated to work to do more to change Tech’s campus.
Knowing firsthand the stress students deal with simply because of their sexual or gender identity is enough for me to be willing to take up a figurative cross and work to make such resources a reality, hopefully transforming Tech into a safer space for students from all backgrounds.
Currently, I see a major gap in LGBTQ support at Tech. PRIDE Alliance is a worthwhile campus resource, but, in my experience, has functioned on a more social level. Unfortunately, this has contributed to what I see as a lack of academic, professional and psychological support a full-time professional staff could provide. At neighboring schools there are school-sponsored offices, much like the Womens’ Resource Center, that provide developmental support to LGBTQ students. Emory’s Office of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Life, for example, works to “engage the university community in the creation of an affirming and just campus environment while supporting the development of students of all gender and sexual identities.”
Let me stress I am not trying to discount the work PRIDE Alliance has done on campus and for the surrounding Atlanta area. Coming Out Week is a fantastic example of the programming PRIDE provides to Tech. The Institute needs more programming like this, but, as an organization with limited financial and human resources, it is unreasonable to expect PRIDE to shoulder this responsibility. A resource center, however, would have additional manpower that could supplement that of PRIDE’s and work to fill the gap in programming.
While it is easy to write a few hundred words calling for the addition of these resources, there is a true issue of money and how such a resource would be received by alumni. Though Atlanta is one of the most cosmopolitan and “Northern” cities of the South, there undoubtedly exists a portion of Tech alumni that will vehemently disagree with the addition of such resources, especially if Tech funds them.
The opinions of alumni are important, even more so when it comes to the money they give back to Tech. Despite this, it is important to emphasize that any investment in the student body, no matter how controversial, will come back to benefit Tech in the long run; an investment by the Institute would be well worth the cost, increasing recruiting power and building stronger relations with LGBTQ alumni. In addition to Institute funds, there already exists a Pride Affinity group for LGBTQ alumni that would presumably be able to contribute, if not partially, heavily, to such a project.
Unfortunately, I do not believe I will see an LGBTQ center or similarly concrete resource on campus in my time at Tech. However, planting the idea has immense potential to change campus in the future. I hope that, when I return to campus for Homecoming ten or 20 years down the line, I will be able show my husband and children the figurative tree my peers and I planted, and the students benefitting from its shade.