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When Briana Cornwall, now a senior at Boise State pursuing dual degrees in English and Social Sciences, was in high school she began to realize she was different. She was not the only one to notice. Everyone knew. From teachers, to counselors, to church officials. There was no hiding it. Some even called her sexually deviant.
What was Cornwall’s abnormality? She identifies as queer. However, misguided labels and names often made it difficult for Cornwall to accept her sexuality and left her feeling isolated and alone through many of her teen years.
The issues Cornwall faced are just are just a few of those lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) students deal with every day. Here at Boise State there are resources to both support members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, intersex and ally (LGBTQIA) community and promote understanding.
This week one of Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Allies for Diversity’s (BGLAD) premier events is taking place. October 8-12 BGLAD, in coalition with the Women’s Center, is putting on a Diversity Week.
Each evening touts a different event. A complete list and a description of each event can be found on the Women’s Center website. The schedule is as follows:
Monday- 6 to 8 p.m., Farnsworth Room: Be an Active Bystander: Prevent LGBTQ Bullying
Tuesday- 7 to 9 p.m., Bergquist Lounge: Queers and Answers Panel
Wednesday- 7 to 9 p.m., Bergquist Lounge: “For the Bible Tells Me So” screening and discussion
Thursday- 9 to 3p.m., The Quad: National Coming Out Day Celebration. 7 to 9 p.m., Bergquist Lounge: Non-Discrimination Human Rights Ordinance Seminar
Friday- 7 to 9 p.m., Hatch Ballroom: BGLAD 20th Birthday Celebration
The purpose of Diversity week is two-fold. The first reason for Diversity Week is education. The events are open to everyone and are designed to humanize the LGBTQIA community. This is a chance for people who have questions, reservations or limited experience with the LGBTQIA population to come see what it is all about.
As Matthew Vankirk, president of BGLAD and senior Education student, said, “You may not get the answer you are looking for but you will get an answer that makes
The second goal of Diversity Week is to celebrate diversity at Boise State. Diversity Week provides a low stress way to reach out to and connect with members of the LGBT community and to members on campus who want to identify as “allies.” Ally is a broad term that many may not be familiar with.
As Kali Furman, program coordinator for the Women’s Center said, “As a straight person I identify as an ally to the LGBT community. I try in all the ways that I can to hear their experiences, to validate their experiences, to find out ways that I can be supportive, to find ways that I can stand up, ways that I can create an inclusive community.”
That is the spirit of Diversity Week which is centered around National Coming Out Day on Thursday Oct. 11.
“The significance of National Coming Out Day is it’s a day for the LGBT community to really celebrate who they are,” Vankirk said.
It is impossible to get exact numbers of how many LGBTIQ students we have here at Boise State. However, the Williams Institute of Law at UCLA published a study in April 2011 saying that conservatively 3.5 percent of the adult population of the United States identifies with the LGBT community.
If we apply that number student body here at Boise State we are looking at an estimated community of around 700 students.
With hard work and the aid of programs like Diversity Week, Cornwall has found her niche here at Boise State. She currently works at the Women’s Center as a Gender Equity Peer Educator.
“I just want people to see themselves in their wider culture—I want people in classes to see people like themselves; I want the media to represent LGBTQIA people in a way that doesn’t tokenize or constrain them within cliché stereotypes that make them other” Cornwall said. “I want relationships to be freed from constraints about how people should behave just because of one facet of their identity.”
For people like Cornwall, the work is just beginning.