LGBTQ group: ‘Fully accepted? Not exactly’

Members of the Spectrum Pride group pose for a picture after a recent meeting. Photo Courtesy of Bryce Diggs

This past August, history was made in Vermont when Democrat Christine Hallquist became the first transgender woman to be nominated for governorship of a major party. In doing this, Vermont voters sent a clear message of their willingness to stride toward equality.

But while we are moving forward, how far have we gotten?

On the Castleton University campus, there are individuals and clubs striving to spread the message of LGBTQ+ acceptance, including the Spectrum Pride Club.

Spectrum Pride is an all-inclusive club on Castleton University’s campus trying to bring forth education and awareness on the issue. Club members work on gender-inclusive housing and residence life training for community advisors on campus, among other things. It currently has roughly 15 members.

Viviane D’Amico, president of the club, does not believe that the community is fully accepted yet.

“Fully accepted? Not exactly. Things are getting better. We are on the road to being fully accepted,” she said.

Club member Rowie Budde also believes the community is not fully accepted.

“On campus posters for the LGBT-themed poetry slam or the pronoun posters, people have ripped those down,” Budde said.

There are many members of the LBGTQ+ community who have dealt with adversity in their lives. D’Amico, however, has been lucky.

“It’s strange…I personally haven’t dealt with a whole lot opposition in my life,” she said.

One of the many people who dealt with much adversity was Matthew Shepard. He was beaten to death in October 1998, when he just over 20 years ago. Shepard was a college student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Many in the LGBTQ+ community see Shepard as a symbol for the strive for equal rights.

Budde, however, feels that he is unfortunately just one of many.

“As awful as it is to say, he is just one of a lot of people that this has happened to…at this point, it’s just kind of something I’m more numb to,” Budde said.

Another opportunity to experience acceptance on the university campus is at poetry slams. The poetry events, organized by Amy Bremel and Jeff Hazard, choose controversial themes and offer an emotional outlet for all those who attend.

There have been posters put up around campus on the topic of gender: advertising the LGBTQ+ poetry slam, and the importance of respecting an individual’s personal pronouns. If you’ve been on the university campus, you might have seen these posters, or maybe you haven’t – because although people keep putting them up, people also keep taking them down.

On a national level, turmoil continues to trump the LGBTQ+ community. The Trump administration seeks to remove the word “gender” from United Nations human rights documents, replacing the word with “woman.”

This would ultimately redefine gender as strictly male or female on the basis of anatomical characteristics present at birth.

“It’s awful, and terrible, and words can’t describe how just nauseating that is, that they are even trying to do that,” Budde said.

The implications of this decision would mean that an estimated 1.4 million Americans would be denied legal recognition of their gender identity.

“I feel like it silences people who have worked so hard to have their voices heard. I think it’s a travesty,” Hazard said.

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