Q&A with Natalie Nguyen; Workshops Promote Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Awareness

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

The University of North Florida will hold a series of workshops next week to highlight Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness (LGBT) Days. Natalie Nguyen, program assistant at the university's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, talks about the event.

What is the purpose of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Days?

To show that LGBT individuals face a different set of struggles and that there is an accepting community of individuals (allies). Many may not realize that a person who identifies as LGBT may face physical harassment, uncomfortable work environments, discrimination in housing or employment, or that a person who is not "out" may feel isolated if there is a perception that the community is not safe or accepting. There are things that people sometimes take for granted without even realizing that others do not have the same luxuries, such as having friends and family members who accept you for who you are, being able to go out without fear of physical harm, being able to dress in the clothes that fit your gender expression without fear of harassment and so on.

The schedule of workshops and activities includes a wide range of topics. Describe them.

The "Fearless" exhibit by Jeff Sheng is to promote athletes, both high school and collegiate, who are open about their sexuality and have found acceptance from their coaches and teammates. The exhibit is also used to help break the stigma of homophobia within athletics and to show that there's no way to "tell" if an athlete is gay or not ...

The "gay? fine by me" T-shirt campaign brings visibility to friends, classmates, co-workers and allies who are accepting. When a large community of people wears the T-shirts, it shows that there are people out there who are accepting, which is important for those who are struggling to find acceptance and safety in the community and in their everyday lives.

The "Bullied" documentary is very timely, especially with the string of youth suicides last fall. The documentary is a great way to open up dialogue about what it means to create a safe space for all students and that harassment, of any kind, is not only unhealthy but can also be dangerous. We hope to bring a lot of teachers, school administrators and students to not only view the documentary but discuss how to create a safe environment for students who are LGBT or even perceived to be LGBT.

The dialogue "Queers in the Spotlight" is a discussion on how LGBT individuals are portrayed in the media: either as overly sexual, confused, overly effeminate men (or overly masculine women) and how these portrayals create stigma and are a hindrance to the LGBT movement. If someone is coming to terms with their sexual identity or gender orientation, these media images can be very confusing.

The last discussion, "Out in the Workplace," will talk about the struggles of either being out, open and honest about your sexual orientation (or gender identity) in the workforce, what it could mean to your work environment, safety (both physical safety as well as secured employment) and chances for promotion. …