When I originally sent in my deposit to Ithaca College, I had no idea if I was making the right choice. Now, I can’t imagine who or where I’d be if I hadn’t chosen to come here. If I’d gone somewhere else, I wholeheartedly feel that I wouldn’t be in a place where it’s okay to explore your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation the way you can at Ithaca. Our campus is truly lucky to have four LGBT student organizations, an LGBT Resource Center with a fantastic director, and an option for LGBT housing. People may not realize that this is not the case at other colleges. —Catherine Kirchhoff ’11
Kirchhoff knows what the nation now knows about Ithaca College, since it was recently recognized by the Campus Climate Index for being one of the most LGBT-friendly campuses in the country, earning a five-star rating.
“I came to Ithaca from a conservative high school,” recalls Dan Weller ’12. “But when I got here I wasn’t the only gay kid in class anymore. I have even had the chance to explore my development as a gay person through several of my writing assignments for class.” This kind of acceptance isn’t the exception on Ithaca’s campus, it’s the rule—and several student-led organizations contribute significantly to the College’s LGBT-friendly atmosphere.
Alliance of Gay and Straight Student Athletes
The Alliance of Gay and Straight Student Athletes is a new organization centering on the issues LGBT athletes and their teammates face. “I’m really excited to see what can happen both now and in the future as a result of our efforts,” member Andrew Whitson ’11 says. He has also written an essay about his personal experiences as a gay athlete throughout his life, an essay that he went on to present at Ithaca College’s Sport Sexuality and Culture conference. “Overall, as a gay athlete, I have had a very positive experience at Ithaca College,” he says. “I have been on the club volleyball team for four years and all of the other players have been really supportive. Many have even had healthy discussions about their backgrounds and the questions they might have.”
As the LGBT advocacy group on campus, Created Equal is the most politically active of the LGBT organizations. “Created Equal has a reputation of rising up when there is a social or political issue relating to the LGBT community,” explains Whitson, copresident of the organization. “In the past few years, we’ve led participation in creating a memorial cemetery in honor of Matthew Shepard, a demonstration against discriminatory laws around the world, the Day of Silence, and many others.” House of Roy Living and Learning Community In the spring semester of her sophomore year, Catherine Kirchhoff was elected president of Prism (see next page), and it was through that experience that she recognized the College’s need for LGBT housing. It took nearly two years, but the House of Roy Living and Learning Community opened its doors this fall in Eastman Hall. As a residential learning community, students are strongly encouraged to participate in programs such as the LGBT film series, a prom, a potluck dinner with other groups on campus, and guest speaker presentations on a variety of LGBT issues.
Students looking to make Ithaca College a safe space can turn to Prism. Open to everyone and offering social and community-building activities, as well as educational programming, Prism also sponsors Zap! Panels, which are discussions that give students an opportunity to learn about the broad range of experiences that LGBT individuals face. “They can also be a medium for raising questions and discussion that many students may not have experienced in their classes or everyday lives,” says Whitson. “For example, a student who may have come from a very conservative area of this country might have never had the opportunity to meet or talk to an out LGBT person. This takes the label away and gives them real people to associate with the broad range of all things LGBT.”
“Spectrum is a social discussion group for people who are attracted to the person and not the gender, whether they are bisexual, pansexual, sexually fluid, questioning, or bicurious,” explains Heather Mueller ’11, the founder and president of Spectrum. “After spending a whole year at Ithaca, I was really frustrated about meeting people in the LGBT community,” Mueller explains. “I felt a lack of community for bisexuality and like I didn’t fit in, even with such a great presence of LGBT activities, clubs, and events on campus.”
Mueller created Spectrum after talking to Lis Maurer, program director of the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach, and Services. “After Spectrum discussion groups, I’ve had many people come to me and say that our discussions helped them realize just how many stereotypes and myths affect the lives of people who identify as bisexual. It felt good to hear people of all orientations express how one discussion helped change their opinions about bisexuality.”
Ithaca College’s LGBT community doesn’t end here. There are tons of other LGBT resources on our campus. “I remember how incredible it felt to hear those stories from people just like me who didn’t have a safe space or community at home,” says Created Equal copresident Devon Ritz ’12. “Now I go into every situation with the hopes that any student of any background can see that there are people who not only understand them, but who love them and want their voices to be heard.”
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Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.