Students, community collaborate to promote LGBTQ equality

Brianna Welk, Contributing Reporter

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EIU Pride and the Charleston chapter of PFLAG are working together more this year to combat discrimination and make the campus a welcoming environment for all students.

Charleston PFLAG, formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is a diverse group of allies from the surrounding area. Donna Hudson, one of the founding members and president of PFLAG, is concerned about the current political landscape.

“This is a long time coming, and groups like Pride and PFLAG are more important than ever under this new administration,” she said.

Hudson said she became an ally because her oldest son identifies as gay and wants to help other parents find ways to support their children who experience the same kind of discrimination.

The Charleston chapter of PFLAG is currently working to create an emergency fund for students who risk financial loss if they decide to come out to their families. A national study conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that nine in 10 gender and sexual minority students experience some form of harassment while in school.

Charleston PFLAG celebrated its anniversary last October, and Hudson describes the group as natural allies to Eastern students.

“We are really amazed at the terrific job Pride has done on this campus to make the EIU community more aware of the issues and make the campus a safer place,” Hudson said.

Siobhan Doherty, freshman sociology major and vice president of Pride, agrees with Hudson that groups like Pride and PFLAG should be growing in this uncertain political climate.

“The near future is rough legally, but despite all of what he (President Donald Trump) has said, he has brought so many different minority groups together, to fight not only for themselves but for each other,” Doherty said.

Doherty encourages allies to join.

“You don’t have to identify (as a gender or sexual minority) and it’s totally confidential. Our role is to be active in advocating for all minorities,” Doherty said.

Devin Andersen, freshman communication studies major, said he joined Pride because his significant other identifies as gender fluid.

“Being an ally means you have an understanding for the community and support for the community, without identifying,” he said.

EIU Pride conducts panels on campus and at the Charleston Library to share coming out stories and inform people about issues facing the GSM community.

Hudson said EIU Pride students are well-informed and generous with their time. The two groups have previously marched in Pride parades together and protested the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.

They both plan to protest again this spring when the traveling preacher Brother Jed and his followers return to campus.

“We will continue working together to push equality forward,” said Hudson.

Brianna Welk can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]