The LGBT voices of Santa Monica College

Within the immensely diverse culture of Santa Monica College, most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students find a readily accepting atmosphere. But in a world that is rapidly shifting when it comes to the acceptance of sexual diversity, SMC’s LGBT community still finds itself facing daily hassles. SMC student Ashley Reese has been part of the LGBT community since she came out at the age of 15 while she lived in Orange County. She was called names for holding hands and showing affection in public with her girlfriend at the time and can relate to the discrimination that the LGBT community faces.

“There were some places I couldn’t walk around with my girlfriend.” shares Reese. “It was like that for years until I moved to LA, but even here, there are some people who will never understand who you are and it doesn’t sit right with them.”

SMC student Jonathan Loi shares that he too has suffered pain emotionally, mentally, and physically in the past for being gay. He is an active member of the LGBT community and describes the surroundings of SMC as open-minded.

As a former president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance Club at SMC, Loi has spoken with many LGBT individuals and considers the community to be a strong and well-built group. He describes the GSA as a “safe house” with much to offer for those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

“The GSA serves an important role for the community,” adds Michael Greenberg, Associated Students director of publicity, who identifies as being gay. “I really like the stuff that they do because it raises awareness.”

Greenberg advocates that it would be great if the SMC administration would take part in fostering the LGBT community on campus with ideas such as an LGBT center. He believes that it would serve the campus well and that the college could be the precedent for other community colleges around the country.

Former GSA member Shayne Holzman chimes in that it would be a good idea to have an office available for the LGBT community. She expresses a desire for the community’s voice to be heard more often and believes that LGBT literature classes could help shape a more aware student body.

Reese agrees with her. “I definitely think more LGBT related classes should be offered at SMC. A few of my friends have talked about it years ago, and it would be awesome to get to know the culture and history of the LGBT community.”

SMC student Jil Del Toro believes the LGBT community needs more visible representation on campus. She shares that she never sees any news or events announced for the community and believes that more LGBT related classes should be offered.

“Not just because I’m gay, but I feel that education on something that has long been ingrained into our current society as wrong is needed, as more of today’s youth begin to come out,” she explains.

Greenberg, however, points out that such a class was offered over the 2013 winter semester, but was canceled because of low enrollment. While he supports the idea of offering such classes, he suspects the lack of interest has to do with the fact that most students are focused on completing their transferring requirements.

Instead, he believes lectures on successful gay men and women in power, support for those in the process of coming out, or days of advocacy for LGBT rights would be more beneficial.

SMC student Trevor Pop adds that he would like gender-neutral restrooms to be available at SMC and strongly believes that both gender-nonconforming students and others would benefit from having them.

“I also feel like another support that could be modeled by the staff and faculty is a respect for PGP [preferred gender pronouns] and preferred name of choice, something that I have found myself struggling with,” he adds.

According to Greenberg, SMC is planning on installing PGP bathrooms in the near future.

SMC student Andrea Gonzales expresses a desire for better counselors, psychological services, and visits from community groups that support LGBT members outside of SMC.

“We need more support for LGBT students on campus and more people to represent us when making decisions for the well-being of our school and its students. This will help create a better and equal environment for all, ” she adds.

Ty Moura is another proud member of the LGBT community at SMC. As president of the AS, it is her job to ensure the best interest of the student community. She is enthusiastic to hear that members of the LGBT community are voicing their opinions.

She has to maintain a neutral stance due to her position, but invites each of them to approach her should they wish to see change.

“If the students were to approach me with the request for an LGBT center, I would be open to helping them,” she adds.

While the GSA has established itself in previous semesters as a well-respected force on campus, this semester has been off to a slow start.

According to GSA Vice President Andy Cabrera, the group is currently in the process of becoming an official club. Until then, there will be no official club meetings.

With the celebration of International Women’s Month, and the dominating presence of LGBT headlines around the world, the subject of gender equality and rights is becoming more prominent, even in the realm of same-sex relationships.