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Bringing Everyone Together

by Tim Burkhardt, staff writer

College can be a crazy time in a person’s life. For many students, the first fresh breath of freedom out from under the sheltering wings of their parental units is the moment at the end of summer when that mini-van door slams, and mom and dad wave goodbye, leaving a young person alone in the world for the first time.

And what a world Warren Wilson is to explore. The words are tossed around casually: “Polyamory,” “Transgendered,” “Male-Identified,” “Anarcho-primitivism.” (For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus only on issues surrounding the first three.)

From the very first days of orientation, students are told that this should be a safe place for everyone to figure out who they are, what they enjoy in life, and how to connect with the people around them as they explore the sometimes complex world of adult identity. At “Let’s Talk about Sex,” the R.I.S.E. and Empower crews do their best to promote an attitude of openness and understanding about human sexuality.

It would be nice if the real world always reflected the ideals expressed by Empower and R.I.S.E, but things are often a bit messier than that. According to Lukas LaRiviere, who works at Empower, he often hears of people being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable because of their declared (or sometimes simply perceived) sexuality. “We need to address a lack of recognition in the community. Although we say we are gay-friendly, that is not always the case,” said LaRiviere.

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s website, “Youth are coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) at younger ages than ever before.” Many people come out for the first time in college. Conversely, college can be the first time some students are exposed to openly gay individuals, or other alternative lifestyles. To help deal with these realities, many campuses have begun Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) that help members of the “straight community” get to better know and understand members of the “gay, lesbian, and transgendered communities,” so that everyone realizes that a school is all one community.

According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, more than 4,000 GSAs were registered with them by 2008, and similar organizations have been blossoming as well. In response to interest from faculty and campus, Warren Wilson has its own Alliance program in the works. This is not intended to be a group solely for students who are homosexual or transgendered, the aim is to attract straight students and begin a discourse. At a meeting on Oct.10, interested parties gathered in Cannon lounge to discuss the specific difficulties of undertaking the project.

At the meeting it was agreed that the group would be called Spectrum, a name chosen to represent the entire spectrum of sexual identities, from bisexual to asexual, gay to straight. All walks of life should feel comfortable attending meetings and events without feeling pressured to identify themselves as anything other than a person with a desire to understand human sexuality and other walks of life.

As of now, the group is still in its formative stages. The next meeting will be held after Fall Break, and an open house is being planned. Anyone interested in working to turn this into a community-uniting project should feel encouraged to contact Lukas LaRiviere, or any other member of the Empower crew.

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