Queer it up: Professor discusses how to be an ally to LGBT

MCCC Psychology professor Melissa Grey discussed the importance of becoming an ally and supporting different sexual orientations in an Oct. 24 presentation.

“An ally is someone heterosexual who supports different sexual orientations,” Grey said.

“An ally is someone who recognizes they have privilege where others experience prejudice by society.”

Grey named her speech, “Queer It Up: A Discussion and Exercise in How to be an LGBT Ally at MCCC.” She talked about the differences between various sexual orientations and gender identities such as gay, bisexual, lesbian, and heterosexual.

She led the audience through a symbolic activity, asking each person to close their eyes as she  placed a sticker on their foreheads.

The group  was also told to open their eyes and to find other people in the room whose sticker matched theirs. The challenge – they were unable to communicate through speaking.

As each person looked around the room, they began to realize that every sticker was in the shape of a star; each a different color.

The participants separated into groups without talking; they helped each other by looking at a forehead and pointing that person in the direction of their group.

By the time everyone was split into groups, there was one person with a yellow sticker  who stood alone

The purpose of the activity was to represent belonging to a group and how society divides us based on looks and differences.

Each person trusted someone else to tell them the color of their sticker and direct them to the correct group. This symbolized how society separate us into a group, when in reality, we feel as though we do not belong.

“Why divide by gender identities?,” Grey asked. “Why is that better?”

People are treated differently based on groups that society pushes them into, Grey explained.

Grey showed statistics to college students about sexual orientation.

Research indicates that 44 percent of college students have experienced sexual harassment in the past year based on their sexual identity, and 72 percent of students have experienced non-sexual contact harassment such as homophobic name calling.

In the past year, 28 percent of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) youth have thought about or attempted suicide, she said. On college campuses, 89 percent of students have heard the phrase “that’s so gay” being used in a derogatory fashion.

Grey listed ways on how allies can take action against discrimination.

“Step in to say it is wrong. Stop physical harassment by letting the LGBT community know there is support. And raise awareness to prevent harassment based on gender identities,” she said.

Grey asked what the students learned in the event.

“Stop being judgmental and accept everyone for who they are,” one audience memeber said.

“You do not always get to pick the group you are in,” another girl said.