Being both a person of color and a member of the gay community
means going through life with two strikes against you.
This was the message sent by two panelists at a discussion held
in East Hall last night. The panel discussion, co-sponsored by the
Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender affairs and the
Office of Multi Ethnic Student Affairs, was the first of a
four-part series focusing on the experiences of racial minorities
who are also members of the LGBT community.
“The LGBT community is a microcosm of the community at
large, so there is oppression within,” said Kelly Garret,
assistant director of the Office of LGBT Affairs. “We felt
like there was a need to bring awareness to some of the issues, so
we teamed up to put this together.”
The discussion began with each of the two panelists giving a
brief synopsis of their experiences as a homosexual man of color.
They both expressed the difficulty that they have faced in trying
to find a community with which to identify.
“My experience all through my life has been as the
‘other,’ ” said panelist and RC senior Erik
Glenn. Glenn later explained that this meant “not having
space within communities to be different than what is commonly
understood as the norm.” Glenn is a volunteer for the LGBT
Affairs Speaker’s Bureau.
“It’s almost like being a minority within a
minority,” said Speaker’s Bureau volunteer and Detroit
resident Lorenzo Ramsey. “To be a black male, there is a
machismo attached to that, and because you’re doing
what’s perceived as a feminine act you’re being
The audience, consisting of a handful of people, was responsive
and inquisitive toward the panelists. Questions dealing with
family, religion, school and community were openly asked and
Glenn said he has faced struggles in his attempts to relate with
a community at the University. “Last year I had decided that
not only was I trying to find people like me, but I was trying to
find a community,” Glenn said. As he searched for such
kinship, he said he felt discouraged. “I felt like I
wasn’t part of the community because it was their community
and I was the gay one,” he said.
When asked how allies of the LGBT community could be more
welcoming and supportive of people dealing with similar feelings of
isolation, Glenn responded by addressing the University’s
recent funding cuts to the Office of LGBT Affairs. “If I were
to find support, the offices that I would need, MESA and LGBTA, are
shrinking. These offices give great support but they are limited in
the support that they get,” Glenn said.
Ramsey said, “It’s important for the University to
stress that diversity is important. Every student should feel
welcome and important. … It’s a contradiction to say,
‘You’re important and we want you here,’ and then
in the same breath to depreciate the funding that provides for the
groups that are the sole support for these minorities.”
Three similar panel discussions co-sponsored by LGBT Affairs and
MESA will be held next month, featuring Asian, Latino and
multiracial LGBT panels. The Asian LGBT panel is scheduled for
March 16. The dates of the others have yet to be announced.