LGBT ally networks advocate for students

By Lisa Chung

Before becoming an ally on campus, Associate Dean of Students Cathy Acevedo said she was “naive and unknowledgeable” of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Acevedo said she began seeing society as “hetero-sexist” by working as an ally for the past 15 years.

Ally networks serve students, faculty and staff members by raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. These networks heavily focus on what it’s like to be an LGBT person, said Curt McKay, director of the Office of LGBT Resources.

One three-hour formal training session offered by the Sexual Orientation Diversity Allies is required to become an ally.

Monthly meetings keep allies updated and allow them to discuss specialized topics, such as marriage rights among homosexual couples, said Rene Monteagudo, co-chair of Sexual Orientation Diversity Allies and a psychologist at the Counseling Center.

Although becoming an ally may take just three hours, Monteagudo recommended that allies attend these meetings to add on to the trainings, as ally training should “not be a one-stop training,” but a lifelong experience.

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“When you’re an ally you learn a lot about personal issues of (LGBT people),” said Acevedo. “It’s really important to know how other people struggle on campus.”

The presence of ally groups on campus is critical in informing LGBT students that there are faculty and staff members who are affirming of them, McKay said.

“It shows that there are people on campus they can talk to and who support them.” McKay said.

The Office of LGBT Resources hopes to work with teacher programs in the College of Education to have greater effects in schools, McKay said.

“If we help educate teachers as they’re going into the field, then they’ll be more likely to do something when they’re in their own classrooms,” he said.

There are more than 200 allies at the University, including students, faculty and staff members.

“Students, regardless of their identity status, deserve to feel safe and welcomed, and as part of my work in student affairs, I work really hard to offer students a full educational experience,” Acevedo said. “Allies help to ensure that by being supporters and advocates.”