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Coming Out of the Classroom Closet : Gay and Lesbian Students, Teachers, and Curricula
 Losing Matt ShepardLosing Matt Shepard by Beth Loffreda

The murder in October 1998 of a twenty-one-year-old gay University of Wyoming student ignited a media frenzy. The crime resonated deeply with America's bitter history of violence against minorities. While the details of the tragedy are familiar to most people, the complex local context is not. This book explores why the murder still haunts us - and why it should. Beth Loffreda is uniquely qualified to write this account. As a professor new to the state and the straight faculty advisor to the campus Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Association, she is both an insider and outsider to the events. She draws upon her own observations as well as dozens of interviews with students, townspeople, journalists, state politicians, activists, and gay and lesbian residents. The book shows how the politics of sexuality - perhaps now the most divisive issue in America's culture wars - unfolds in a forgotten corner of the country. Loffreda succeeds brilliantly in capturing daily life since October 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming - a community in a rural, poor, conservative, and breathtakingly beautiful state without a single gay bar or bookstore. Rather than focusing on one person - Matt Shepard - she presents a full range of characters, including the locals (both gay and straight), the national gay activists who quickly descended on Laramie, the homicide investigators, and even a cameo appearance by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Her book not only recounts the typical responses to Matt's death but also the surprising stories of ordinary people whose lives were transformed - individual voices ignored in the media frenzy.

About the Author
Beth Loffreda is assistant professor of English at the University of Wyoming and faculty advisor to the campus Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Association.

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Creating Safe Schools for LGBT Students

Homophobia interferes with the health development of all young people, particularly those who are dealing with issues of sexual orientation. One of the many places gay and lesbian youth feel the effects of homophobia is within their schools. This booklet is designed to not only give school staff many valuable resources, but also to provide practical suggestions for helping to reduce homophobia within our schools, The ultimate goal is to ensure the safety of all students.

 

School Shouldn't Hurt: Lifting the Burden from Gay,  Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered  Youth

On December 6, 1995, Rhode Island youth made history in this state by courageously speaking out about discrimination directed against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students* in their schools. At a statewide forum sponsored by the Rhode Island Task Force on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Youth, students, teachers and parents had the opportunity to share their experiences and those of their peers who suffer from isolation, harassment, threats and violence. The purpose of the forum was to gather information on the realities of school life for gay and lesbian students and to develop recommendations to allow all youth to obtain an education free from discrimination and harassment. 

Modeled after the Massachusetts Governor's Commission On Gay and Lesbian Youth, which was the first of its kind in the nation, the Rhode Island Task Force has been organized to ensure the safety of all students regardless of sexual orientation. The Task Force is made up of government officials, service providers, youth, parents, educators, and administrators from the Rhode Island Departments of Health and Education.

The testimony presented at the forum provided evidence that many schools are unsafe places for gay and lesbian students. The participants and speakers outlined possible actions and policy changes which would help make schools safer places for all students to learn, regardless of sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

 

Student Civil Rights Project

This service is designed to receive reports of hate incidents and provide information and resources to students, educators, law enforcement and communities to help combat prejudice and hatred in schools. The goal is to promote awareness of hate crimes and to provide resources for responding to and preventing such acts. 

Coming out in an academic environment

Based loosely on the SHARE Program and Health Education booklet McCosh Health Center Princeton University... the specific references to Princeton have been changed to make it more appropriate to our University community.

Someone you know is Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual

This brochure is prepared for students. It is also intended as a resource for faculty and staff members of the University community.

What is Sexual Orientation?

No one knows what determines sexual orientation. However, everyone has the potential to become attracted to and form relationships with someone of the opposite or the same sex. Sexual orientation refers to a person's capacity for sexual feelings, emotional ties, and satisfaction.

Homosexuals (who prefer to be called "gay" if men or "lesbian" if women) are physically and emotionally attracted to those of the same sex. Heterosexuals are attracted to persons of the opposite sex, while bisexuals are attracted to persons of either sex.

Throughout life people may engage in a variety of relationships and sexual behaviors common to people of a homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual orientation. Regardless of sexual orientation, each person forms relationships based on several motivations, including common interests, religious beliefs, emotional compatibility, and physical attraction.

"Why are some people gay or lesbian?"

Sexual orientation is a basic part of a person's identity. Whether this results from biological or environmental factors or both is unclear. Some researchers suggest that one's basic sexual orientation is determined before birth or very early in life. Discovering one's sexual orientation and sexual behavior may be a lifelong process.

"Isn't it easy to spot someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual?"

It is estimated that at least 10 percent of adults in the U.S. have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior or consider themselves to be of a homosexual orientation. They come from all ethnic groups, races, professions, geographical regions, and religious backgrounds.

A man or woman's behavior, appearance, or family background does not automatically identify him or her as having a specific sexual orientation. Heterosexual, lesbian, gay, and bisexual staff, faculty, and students are part of and make an important contribution to the community.

Fear of gay men and lesbians--known as homophobia--exists among people who have difficulty accepting the very idea of homosexuality. Ignorance about homosexuality can foster hurtful stereotypes and can lead to restrictive laws and institutional policies.

What is "Coming Out"?

Individuals who recognize and accept their sexual orientation are likely to be more comfortable with their sexuality. For lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, this process of self-acceptance may be the first stage of "coming out." In the second step, the individual decides whether or not to come out to family, friends, and each new acquaintance. This process is often misunderstood by heterosexuals and homosexuals who have not yet come out.

"Why is it difficult to talk about being gay, lesbian, or bisexual?"

Some people have always known and accepted that they are gay or lesbian. Others, because of personal conflicts, social attitudes, or fear of rejection, take longer to recognize and accept their sexual orientation. Therefore, some gays and lesbians may not be open about their sexual orientation while in college. During the process of accepting their own sexual orientation, many people are surprised to find there are many other gays and lesbians around them. Coming out can be a liberating process of discovering oneself and new friends.

SOME COMMON QUESTIONS

Roommates

"What do I do if I'm gay, lesbian, or bisexual and I am not sure if I should tell my roommate or a close friend?"

Decide for yourself if you want to share something personal with a friend or roommate. Pick a time to discuss it when you are not under academic pressure. Your roommate may need time to listen and respond to what you say. Ask friends for advice.

If you need to discuss other living arrangements, talk with staff members in your residential college, the Office of the Dean of Students, or the Housing Office.

"What do I do if my roommate is gay, lesbian, or bisexual?"

Friendship, not sexual orientation, should be the basis of your relationship. Be honest with yourself and your roommate if you cannot accept his or her sexual orientation. Act in a friendly rather than a hostile and rejecting manner. Your roommate is not a threat to your own sexuality or social interests. If you need to discuss alternative living arrangements, talk with staff members in your residential college, the Office of the Dean of Students, or the Housing Office.Coming Out to Parents, Friends, or Coworkers

"How can I tell others who I am (or about my sexual orientation)?"

Think through what you need to say about coming out. Seek out peers who can be supportive or talk to a counselor. Suggest reading material; it can help answer many questions your parents, friends, or coworkers may have. Role playing with a friend can be useful in clarifying what you want to say about yourself. Be patient and give parents and friends time to accept what you say.

"How should I act if a friend/colleague tells me he/she is gay, lesbian, or bisexual?"

Be yourself and a friend. Discuss the issue and ask questions if you do not know what to do or say. Reading material can help answer some of your questions.

Harassment from Peers

"What do I do if I receive obscene or insulting anonymous phone calls, or receive physical or verbal abuse?"

If you feel physically endangered, contact the Police. Find peers, friends, and professional counselors with whom you can talk.

Medical Care

"Where do I go if I have questions about my own or my partner's sexual health?"

Remember, medical records and visits for any reason are confidential. Be informed about safer sex practices and prevention of HIV transmission. It is your responsibility to protect yourself against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Academic Atmosphere

"To whom do I turn if my professor or preceptor makes inappropriate comments about sexual orientation?"

A homophobic atmosphere is not acceptable. If you find professors' or staff members' remarks derogatory, talk to the person either alone or with classmates who feel the same way. Or, you can go either to the Office of the Dean of the College or to a counselor who will advise you on how to handle the situation.

"To whom do I turn if my professor or preceptor makes a pass at me?"

Sexual relationships between a student and professors, preceptors, or staff members are inadvisable. If you are upset by an incident or need help in dealing with a situation, go to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, or any other confidential counselor within the University.

"What do I do if I'm interested in writing a paper, junior paper, senior thesis, or dissertation related to issues of sexual orientation?"

Talk to an academic adviser. 

 

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