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Mean Green Pride

by on September 20, 2010

GLAD (The Gay and Lesbian Association of Denton), the University of North Texas’ GLBTQA (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, queer/questioning, asexual) student group marched in the 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade at Lee Park in Dallas on Sunday, September 19.  This year, as in previous years, UNT had a strong presence at the parade, both through participation in the parade and as spectators.

The UNT campus is a very liberal, GLBTQA-friendly campus in a primarily right-wing red state. This minority voice is not often heard in the state of Texas. The recent political climate has made showing Mean Green Pride at the Pride Parade particularly valuable this year.

I asked GLAD secretary and straight ally Nicole Landry why the parade is meaningful for her.

“I think it’s important for GLAD to be involved in the parade because it shows that supporting gay rights is something that transcends age. If there weren’t any college-aged people in the parade, I think it would come off as something that only older people care about. It’s important to show that equal rights are something that everyone wants, not just because they’re on the precipice of the situation.”

UNT had the most students that marched to show their pride. This is an important statement to make about the school. Showing the masses that our campus is GLBTQA-friendly is important for the queer community at large. UNT has always been focused on having a diverse campus with a diverse student body. It’s important to show that current and aspiring queer UNT students are welcome here.

“I have attended other schools in the Metroplex and they are much more conservative than UNT. I appreciate how accepting our campus is. At UNT, I feel like our voices are actually heard even though they might not be heard in legislation. It’s comforting to know that on our campus people care. It’s important to spread this idea to other people and other campuses,” said UNT student Matt Caproni.

UNT has kept an active voice in student GLBTQA rights on campus. Just last year in September 2009, the Residence Hall Association General Assembly passed a plan to allow unisex bathrooms in most of the dorms including West, Maple, Clark, McConnell, Mozart, Legends, Bruce, Traditions, and Santa Fe. The Resident Hall Association president Hunter Nelson presented the issue in order to protect the rights and safety of sex-transitioning students. Nelson thought the campus was behind in creating a safe environment for GLBTQA students.

Shortly after, in November 2009, UNT’s SGA (Student Government Association) voted on whether or not to allow same-sex couples to run for homecoming court. The measure lost 58 percent to 42 percent, which was a respectable defeat. A large portion of the student body is interested in pursuing GLBTQA rights including here on campus.

Democrats and republicans have been warring over the social controversy of GLBTQA rights for decades, but the fight for human rights has taken a spotlight in the media over the past year.

The most recent story to hit headlines was republicans blocking the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at the Senate. The Defense Department bill to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military had been a ray of hope in the human rights movement.

The devastating 43 to 56 block has continued relegation and devaluation of queer people. If the government allows legislated homophobia, then other “legitimate” forms of discrimination are made more possible and acceptable. Any form of legislation that prohibits openly gay people from doing something straight people are allowed to do – especially when it’s something that society sees as honorable and dutiful – is unconstitutional and further inhibits our progress in society as a whole beyond just the queer community. But most of all, this affects the rights and lives our queer sisters and brothers that are risking their lives to protect our country.

“My sister is a Marine. I visited her at Camp Pentelton in California. No one cares about sexual orientation. When you’re in a life or death situation fighting for your country it shouldn’t matter who you love, just like it shouldn’t matter about your color or race,” said UNT student and parade spectator, Cassie Hefner.

On a happier note, in August  a federal judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, ruled that Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, was unconstitutional. The judge ruled that Proposition 8 violated the Constitution’s equal protection and due process rights clause.

“Proposition 8 singles out gays and lesbians and legitimates their unequal treatment,” Walker wrote. “Proposition 8 perpetuates the stereotype that gays and lesbians are incapable of forming long-term loving relationships and that gays and lesbians are not good parents.”

However, what the repeal means for California and for the rest of the country is still unclear. It could eventually force the United States Supreme Court to address the issue of same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry. But since the ruling, progress on the issue has been essentially stagnant.

In an earlier positive effort in April, President Obama extended hospital visitation rights to the gay and lesbian partners. Even more significantly, he allowed partners to make health care decisions for one another. However, some believe this was an effort to take minds off of a broader struggle for marriage rights.

The last two times a democrat has been elected into presidency, a far-right conservative political group has formed. When Bill Clinton was elected it was the Mudslingers; now that Barack Obama has been elected it’s the Tea Party.

Tea Party figures such as Mark Williams, Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell force extremist and sometimes (or in my opinion, always) ridiculous conservative values into the media, which could be a detriment to the human rights movement.

At a meeting of gay conservatives, Christine O’Donnell commented that gay rights groups should work with anti-abortion groups because “as soon as they find the gay gene, you know who’s getting aborted.” O’Donnell and other Tea Party figures openly attack homosexuality. O’Donnell has stated that she thinks people with AIDS shouldn’t be called victims. She has also stated that she believes homosexuality is a psychological disorder and has been a big supporter of the ex-gay movement, which claims that same-sex attraction can be “cured” with controversial reparative therapy. This therapy has been declared both ineffective and damaging by the American Psychological Association. However, her sister appears to be openly gay.

So why is it important for UNT’s queer and supportive student body to march in and attend the Pride Parade? There is value in numbers. A minority voice cannot be heard without first being seen.  There was a larger turnout at this year’s parade than I have ever seen in the past. People have to see that the community exists in large numbers in order for their voices to be heard. The pride parade is a statement in itself. It’s a good way to assert our views and make a difference during the heightened human rights movement and in the face of extremist conservatives spreading hate.

“I didn’t realize until I became involved with Pride how much apathy there is within the GLBTQA community toward supporting each other. The point of going and standing in front of everyone, especially in a parade setting, is to let people know who are afraid of their circumstances, who may not be ready, who need a little encouragement, ‘We are here!’ How many more people have to take their lives before we are all ready to stand up and be accountable for what we believe in?” said parade marcher Jessica Dollarhide.

Homosexual teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens.

So what’s next for Mean Green Pride? This semester UNT GLAD meets every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in room 106 in the Chemistry Building. If you would like to participate, all you have to do is show up – gay, straight or otherwise.

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