October 7, 2013

Cornell LGBTQ-Ally Ambassadors Program Kicks Off

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By AIMEE CHO

A number of bias incidents — such as the bottle-throwing incident at Sigma Pi and an incident involving racial and homophobic slurs last semester — have prompted outcry from minority student organizations.

One organization working to combat bias incidents is the LGBTQ-Ally Ambassadors Program, which held its first meeting Saturday. Founded last spring, the organization is comprised of fraternity and sorority members who serve as LGBTQ “ambassadors” in their chapters, according to the organization’s mission statement. The program provides training and resources to the ambassadors, who then use that training to educate their brothers and sisters on LGBTQ issues and tolerance.

According to Jadey Huray ’14, president of Haven: The LGBTQ Student Union and the LGBTQ-Ally Ambassadors program, the organization’s goals for this year are to reduce bias within the Greek community and promote awareness of LGBTQ issues.

“The Greek community is one third of the campus, so we thought what better way to start than with the chapters themselves? Stereotypically, there hasn’t been the most positive perception about the Greek community’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ community,” she said.

At the meeting, Huray said one of the main issues the organization will address on campus is the use of offensive language.

“Someone could be very accepting, but they could still say things like ‘That’s so gay’ or ‘fag.’ So we’re trying to teach them that that’s not okay,” she said.

Huray said she feels Cornell is, for the most part, very accepting “on a sober level” of LGBTQ students.

“But there’s something to be said for when you have alcohol in the mix. When you’re at a party or when you’re drunkenly stumbling around Collegetown, that’s when these incidents are most likely to happen. The word ‘fag’ is thrown around, people are beaten up [and] derogatory hate speech comes up,” she said.

According to Huray, there are about 75 ambassadors in the program, with each sorority at Cornell having at least one ambassador.

“Having an ambassador within each chapter [allows for] bystander intervention in addressing bias. Ambassadors are also a resource and mentor for anybody in the chapter who might be thinking of coming out,” Huray said.

Steven, who did not want to be identified by his real name because he has not revealed his sexuality to his family, has been an ambassador since the program’s inception last spring. He added that he has reached out to his fraternity brothers regarding LGBTQ bias.

“In one email, I talked about how I’ve heard the word ‘fag’ in the house and how much it offends me because of past personal experiences. I haven’t heard it used since,” he said.

Steven said he was nervous during rush week because he didn’t know how he would be received.

“When I got my bid, I made it clear to the frat that I’m gay. I said I wouldn’t accept the bid unless they were okay with it,” he said. “They made it clear to me that this shouldn’t be an issue as they already had two other gay brothers in the house and they accepted them for who they were. They didn’t care that I was gay; they just wanted me to join them.”

 

At the meeting, the members planned ways they can increase awareness within the Greek system this year. Their plans included organizing Peer Educators of Gender and Sexuality discussion panel events in Greek houses and stationing ambassadors at the various house tables during “Recruitment Goes Live” in November.

Huray said she hopes the ambassadors will be able to promote more engagement between the LGBTQ community and the Greek community.

“There has been a hesitance in both communities to talk to each other. Some people believe it’s not possible to be both LGBTQ and Greek. We’re here to show that it is,” she said. “A lot of the time we tend to self-segregate into our own communities. But we’re only here for four years, and there’s so many different people here from all walks of life. It would be so brilliant if we could all just talk with one another.”

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