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Opinion | Road to true acceptance is paved with open, honest conversations

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 22:02

James Lopata, Miami University alumnus of 1986 and current editor-in-chief of the Boston Spirit, will be returning to Miami Thursday to speak with students about his college experiences as a homosexual student. Lopata went through the process of coming out while at Miami and those experiences subsequently shaped the rest of his life.

In 1986, the only LGBTQ group on campus was an activist group that disbanded after less than a year. After, gay students relied on a secret support group called Chameleon. Today there are a number of LGBTQ student organizations on campus as well as an established department in the Office of Diversity Affairs dedicated to advising students.

The editorial board of The Miami Student commends Lopata for returning to Miami to speak about his experience at Miami. But has society, both inside the Miami bubble and beyond, evolved regarding the acceptance of homosexual students? In the past several years, Miami has grown in support and acceptance of gay students, but the community has also suffered disturbing setbacks on the issue.

On one hand, Miami is home to the ‘You Can Play’ campaign surrounding the late Brendan Burke, a homosexual student, promoting the idea that Miami’s athletic community is open and accepting to non-cisgendered athletes.

On the other hand, the student body has witnessed incidents and attacks against homosexual students. Last year, a male student was attacked for holding hands with another male while Uptown. The year before, a female student was harassed with pejorative terms such as ‘dyke.’ The year before, a student was attacked after Spectrum’s drag show. And these are just the incidents that gained widespread attention.

We must also come to terms with the fact that not all gay students at Miami feel completely comfortable with their sexual orientation and many try to blend in with our society and culture.

As the editorial board sat discussing our disappointment that at one time, gay students had to rely only on a secret group, we realized the same could be true to another group today. Perhaps there are still students who feel some part of themselves or their beliefs will not be accepted by society, and thus rely on secret groups for support.

When we look back through history, persecution of those different from the socially held norm has happened time and time again. People have been harassed for gender, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and so much more. We look back at history and disparage those who initiated the mistreatments. Yet we continue to mistreat those who are different from us.

When does this stop? When do we finally accept those who look, act or feel differently than we do?

We need to have honest and open discussions about what can be done for everyone, without the fear of harassment or judgment.

In today’s generation, we typically are more accepting of homosexual students and we can have more open discussions regarding it, but there is no denying that we still have a long way to go for full acceptance, both in the real world and here at Miami.

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