Gender Sexuality Alliance takes new strides towards ending silence on campus

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GSA held a panel discussion. Photo by Katherine Lau. kathrine.lau@marquette.edu

Marquette’s Gender Sexuality Alliance declared their mission to end silence on campus at a panel discussion last Wednesday in the Raynor Library. Students, faculty and administration from Marquette attended along with GSA members from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

“We want to show the university there are people who care about LGBTQ issues at Marquette,” Matthew Bin Han Ong, a senior in the College of Communication, said in the discussion.

The focus of the panel was to discuss what members learned at the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC) at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa in February. More than 2,100 students came together to learn about LGBTQ-plus issues at the conference.

Ed de St. Aubin, faculty advisor of GSA and associate professor of psychology, said the students wanted to continue on with what they learned at the conference when they returned to campus.

The GSA panel said the two goals they took back from the campus were to end both gender binarism and heteronormativity on Marquette’s campus. Gender binarism is viewing gender as consisting of only two distinct categories: masculine and feminine. Heteronormativity is the cultural bias in favor of heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships and the assumption that all human beings are either male or female, both in sex and gender, and that sexual and romantic thoughts and relations are normal only when between people of different sexes.

Marie Sarra, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, is the president of GSA.

“You don’t notice how pervasive heteronormativity is until it is gone,” Sarra said.

The administration improve their attitudes and policies have changed during her time on campus but wants to see more. Sarra said the administration has become more vocal about their desire to make Marquette more LGBTQ-plus friendly, although the group had to present a disclaimer at the beginning of the discussion to say the views expressed during the event do not necessarily represent those of Marquette.

A number of ideas to improve Marquette’s handling of LGBT issues discussed at the forum include adding a requirement for a class on gender and sexuality issues in the Core of Common Studies, having a presentation of gender and sexuality during freshman orientation and requiring ally training for RAs and other leaders.

“Progress takes time–we still have a long way to go, and it always feels like there is more talk than action,” Sarra said.

All members expressed that the conference was a life-changing experience.

Kerri Byers, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said, “I’ve never been in a place where it was so okay to just be yourself.”

Byers said the lessons learned expanded beyond gender and sexuality.

“(MBLGTACC) allowed me to appreciate how different people are,” she said.

Colleen Heitlage, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the biggest lesson she learned was respect and inclusion.

“They are still trying to include everyone in the LGBTQ community,” Heitlage said.  “Equality is the common goal.”

GSA will hold a march around campus for the Day of Silence on April 20, which will start at the St. Joan of Arc Chapel at 4 p.m.

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