I am writing to encourage you to support and participate in "Respect Zone", a training program for Allies (straight or otherwise) of GLBT students. "Respect Zone" is a single 2-hour training session, and it does not require any ongoing time commitment.
Many studies have placed the number of GLBT individuals at somewhere between 1% and 10% of the population. This means that most likely, you have at least one student in your classes who is not straight. While this may not seem like a very large number, you should also recognize that no one truly knows how many more are questioning or still in the closet.
As someone who is bi, I feel very lucky to be at Cal Poly. Although we have a very broad range of viewpoints, we are largely tolerant of those who are different from us.
However, this is not universally the case. The anti-gay-marriage display on Dexter lawn last year was offensive, and it created a climate of hatred and fear felt by all in the Cal Poly GLBT community. I remember walking past it on my way to class, the first morning it was up -- I felt angry, frustrated, and hurt. I wondered who could be discompassionate and hateful enough to compare the marriage of two men, to the marriage of a man and a dog. I
wondered whether it was safe for me to be open about my bisexuality on campus, or whether I would have to actively hide it for fear of being ridiculed, or worse.
Needless to say, instead of hiding, I chose to get involved.
That experience reminded me that even here in California, there is still prejudice and discrimination. It made me realize that every single one of us must take personal responsibility to ensure we don't spread it any further -- wittingly or unwittingly.
For this reason, I want to encourage you to participate in "Respect Zone". That way, when, say, your TA comes out to you, you'll be ready to give him or her the support he/she needs.
Secretary (2005-2006), GLBU