GSA hosts LGBTQ+ dinner

Anna Jackson, Staff Writer

Gay-Straight Alliance  (GSA) sponsored a dinner  to celebrate and show  appreciation to allies of the  LGBTQ+ community as  well as educate the FMU  community about allies.

“The purpose of this  event is to get people out  here to know and get more  educated on how to be an  ally besides ‘Oh, I am an  ally because my friend is a  gay’,” GSA President Elijah  Moton III said. “Just like  people within the LGBTQ  community, allies face issues  too. People stigmatize them  because they support the  LGBT.”

The ally dinner was held  in the Palmetto Room of the  Ervin Dining Hall on Nov.  17, 2016. The event was open  to all students. Twenty-seven  students and faculty attended  the ally dinner, four of whom  served as presenters in a  panel session.

The dinner was opened  by remarks from Moton,  a junior psychology and  political science double  major. Moton welcomed and  thanked those in attendance.  These remarks were followed  by dinner.

“We choose to do this  event in a dinner type setting  because we wanted the  allies to feel like they were  appreciated,” Moton said.  “We want to show them the  love and care we have for  them.”

A panel session was  held after dinner. The panel  was made up of Dr. Beckie  Flannagan, professor of  English; Dr. Lance Weldy,  professor of English; Dr.  Candice Lapan, professor of  psychology; and Christina  Xan, senior English major.

Each member of the  panel shared his or her own  personal stories of situations  where he or she fell short of  being an ally to the LGBTQ+  community and how he  or she learned from those  experiences.

Flannagan shared a  story about how she found  out someone close to her was  gay and how she stopped  speaking to him and acted  unaccepting towards him –  someone she had once been  very close to. She said that  she realized her actions were  not fair and decided that she  would never be unaccepting  again.

Weldy spoke about  growing up in a conservative  environment in which he  avoided a friendship because  he did not want people to  associate him with being part  of the LGBTQ+ community.  Weldy discussed the different  forms of being an ally to  the LGBTQ+ community,  specifically being a faculty  ally. In the conclusion of  his speech, Weldy praised  FMU for being an ally and  supporting the GSA student  organization and the students  and faculty who are part of  the LGBTQ+ community.

Lapan spoke about the  importance of being an  active ally rather than just  saying that you are an ally.

Xan discussed how  she had also come from a  conservative background  that did not allow her to  even ask questions about the  LGBTQ+ community. Xan  said that after she graduated  from high school she began  to question how people  loving each other could be  so wrong. Xan concluded  by saying that being an ally  is being a part of something  bigger than yourself and  supporting the basic human  right to love.

After the panel session,  discussion was opened to  those in the audience. Many  people within the audience  shared their stories regarding  the LGBTQ+ community.  Several of the attendees  expressed how grateful they  were for the GSA student  organization because of  the support and sense of  acceptance they received  from the group.

“I think this event was  an extremely beautiful  event,” Alexus Parker, senior  nursing major, said. “We  never really had anything  like this on FMU’s campus  before really talking about  allies, but I think it was  really necessary to let people  know that the GSA does  exist and that allies are really  important to us.”

Freshman art education  major Mary Cline McKnight  also said that describing who  an ally is was helpful.

“I think it is super  progressive that our  campus is doing things like  this,” McKnight said. “It  shows how far our GSA is  expanding and I think this  helped people understand  what an ally was and gave  them a personal connection.”