The Gender, Love and Sexuality Spectrum at Baruch College hosted an “Allies Lunch” event on March 23, promoting deeper understanding and respect of the LGBT community through a panel of guest speakers.
The event opened with a short video, made by G.L.A.S.S., instructing straight and cisgender students on how to be good allies to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some of the ideas presented by G.L.A.S.S. members in the video encouraged students to educate themselves on the different terms used by the LGBT community and to speak out if they saw an LGBT person being harassed.
The room was then opened to questions from the attending students, to be answered by the panel. Students could submit questions anonymously either by writing them on slips of paper provided by G.L.A.S.S. or by submitting them via a web form specifically for the event.
The panel was designed to include a diverse set of perspectives from across the Baruch community, according to Gabe Roman, the president of G.L.A.S.S.
Suggested by a freshman who had only recently joined G.L.A.S.S., the event “was about bringing allies and the LGBT community closer by having an open forum where people that are trying to [become] allies could ask whatever questions they wanted so that they can make themselves better allies,” said Roman.
Cassie Woody, a Baruch student and the creative director of G.L.A.S.S., and Kayla Maryles, assistant director of New Student Programs and the club advisor to G.L.A.S.S., were both on the panel, as well as Baruch professors Christopher Scott and Janet Werther. Roman moderated the event.
Questions posed to the panelists covered a wide range of topics, from “Are asexual and aromantic people included in the LGBTQ community?” to “How do you address people who don’t want to be referred to by any cisgendered pronouns?”
In addition to addressing general questions about the LGBT community, the panelists delved into their own personal stories with questions like: “What kind of opposition have you faced? What did you feel in that moment? And how did you overcome it?” Werther spoke about being fired from jobs for being gay, while other panelists talked about discrimination they had faced from both family and strangers.
Ways to be a good straight and cisgender ally to the LGBT community were also discussed by the panel. Students were encouraged to support the LGBT community without overshadowing the community.
“Straight allies, cis[gender] allies—feel free to out yourself every day, in every possible way. Every day can be your coming out day. Please, use your voice, and let people—not just the queer people in your life, but also the cis/straight people who might not be allies—know that you are an ally every day,” said Werther in response to the question, “Why do some people view coming out as an ally on National Coming Out Day as offensive?”
When asked “What would you say are the top three skills or characteristics of an effective ally?” Woody said: “Number one would be listening. Number two would be action. Number three would be more listening.”
Good allyship, the panelists stressed, stemmed from listening to LGBT voices, responding to their needs and supporting them in their endeavors. Working together as a community, cisgender, LGBT and straight people can all push for greater equality for all.