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A Bright Future for PRIDE Club Members and the LGBTQ Community

By Abby Landis
Pride Club Advisor Sandy Zetlan

“I was bullied pretty bad in high school…I got a concussion from being slammed into a wall.”

This is just one incident of unfortunate occurrences that plague adolescents who reveal themselves to be members of the LGBTQ community.  Happenings such as this one are frequent to those who choose to “come out”, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Schools such as Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) have clubs to give common ground and support for those who identify as LGBTQ, such as the PRIDE Club. The term PRIDE is commonly used for many LGBTQ organizations.

It is not an acronym; it stands for the pride the members feels for their own sexuality and who they are as individuals. Because of the sensitivity of the topics discussed in this article, all of the students interviewed chose to remain anonymous.

PRIDE Club advisor and biology faculty Dr. Sonya Zetlan discusses the occurrences of bullying because of sexual orientation. She said, that “a lot of it is still clandestine.” Supporting this, a student in the PRIDE Club revealed that instances of cyberbullying are rapidly climbing because of the ease of access to social media. The student said there is “stuff that’s hard to prove and report.”

Openly LGBTQ students would be an easy target if their first and last name were known. A few clicks of the mouse and all evidence of the bullying would be eradicated and the bullied student would be left with the emotional scars for years to come. Another student said that bullying occurs so often because “people aren’t used to any difference.”

Zetlan said something similar, as she thought that “part of it is lack of education outside of their own community, and lack of awareness of positive aspects of diversity.” When asked if hatred toward the LGBTQ community had a correlation with this country being founded on Christian beliefs, she stated that “hate comes in all flavors—everyone is willing to be intolerant.”

Zetlan said the EMCC PRIDE Club exists to “provide a supportive, politically active, educational, and socially fun environment for LGBTQ students.” Zetlan gave an insight to what types of events the PRIDE Club hosts on campus as well as happenings off campus. Zetlan said that because of the roots of the club, most of the events the PRIDE Club puts on are geared toward LGBTQ issues.

PRIDE has a table during AIDS Awareness Month, and “during Women’s History Month we have a table for women’s issues,” Zetlan said. It also has a table for Coming Out Day on October 11th of every year. At their stations one would find information on the current issue and how it applies to the LGBTQ community.

In addition to on-campus events, the PRIDE Club travels to downtown Phoenix to visit the art galleries. Zetlan said that “we sell buttons” to raise money for trips, and “we have our own button making machine”. Surprisingly, most of the PRIDE club’s money comes from donations. They received enough money two years ago to travel to Los Angeles. Zetlan also said that the EMCC campus, “is a very open campus to LGBTQ students and faculty. Because of that it is a very safe campus.”

According to Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, a community of individuals working to promote safety and wellness in the LBGT community, “half of gay males experience a negative parental reaction when they come out and in 26 percent of those cases the youth was thrown out of the home”.

A PRIDE club student member feared he would be one of those 26 percent, as he still has not told his family about his sexuality. He worries that he will be kicked out of the house and shunned from the family.

According to CNN, on November 7th, 2013, Congress passed a law that would “protect gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace”. The Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or ENDA, is one of many legislations that will empower the LGBTQ community, as times are changing and the social structure is constantly shifting.

The New York Times reported that this is the first time in history both the Republicans and the Democrats have approved a nondiscrimination law that included transgender people. Zetlan was thrilled and encouraged at these new changes.

Because students work while attending school, PRIDE club students discussed the new legislation. They said now if an issue arises, members of the LBGT community will be able to protect themselves in the workplace. It was often uncertain if employers would take the side of a LGBT employee. One student reported that the law “is going to make sure [the employers] have a liability to back you up.”

The Republican Party had doubts about the bill. Republican Speaker John A. Boehner said that the bill will “cost American jobs.” He did not expand on this statement. PRIDE members are hopeful that ENDA will create a brighter future for the LGBTQ community.

Gay marriage is a hot topic in this country as well. Zetlan touched on the subject, saying “there are interesting things” happening with marriage. She also said that “states are starting to come around.” According to procon.org, only 17 states have legalized same-sex marriage. Contrasting, 33 states have completely banned same-sex marriage. Given this new ENDA legislation, the LGBTQ community may see changes in the marriage department.

EMCC’s PRIDE Club is just one example of the expanding acceptance that this country is experiencing. The club hopes that ENDA will pave the way to a more tolerant and liberal society.