(Editor’s note: This story is the second part of a multi-part series “Identity Crisis,” examining the transition from one gender to another that begins in Issue #1 and will continue through Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by: JONATHAN BROOKSHIRE/Feature Editor
There are many organizations and clubs across America that bring awareness or provide a safe home for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The South Plains College Gay Straight Alliance (SPCGSA) is one of the few clubs in the area that give awareness to the community.
“The South Plains College Gay Straight Alliance doesn’t just cater to LGBT people,” said Zachary Carlton, government instructor at South Plains College. “We welcome everyone of all sexual and gender identities, be they homosexual, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, question, etcetera.”
The goal of the SPCGSA is to foster understanding and cooperation between students, says Carlton.
Some of the other goals of the SPCGSA are to create awareness and address discriminatory policies existing within the college, along with giving back to the community and advocating for improving interpersonal relationships in society.
Because the SPCGSA is about the community education of alternative sexualities, anybody is welcome to attend and become part of the club. Sometimes, even some instructors at SPC give extra credit for attending the meetings.
“We provide a place for all students, faculty, and staff,” Carlton said. “We allow students to educate people who attend our meetings on alternative sexualities.”
If anybody wanted to actually join the GSA, membership dues are between $5 and $10 per semester.
In the past, the club has taken in many students who have been harassed and depressed when dealing with people, says Carlton.
“There also have been students who seek out the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance),” Carlton said. “They know it is a safe place where they can confide in friendly people and feel comfortable being who they are.”
Meetings are usually held on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 4:30 p.m. in the Founder’s Room in the Student Center on the Levelland campus, and 7 p.m. in Building 8 in room 822 on the Reese Center campus.
However, meetings on the Levelland campus sometimes change from Founders Room, to Tubb Hall, to Southwest meeting rooms.
At the meetings, members just hang out and eat and drink. When the meeting starts, announcements are read aloud, and then there’s usually an icebreaker to help everybody feel comfortable.
After the icebreaker and hanging out, the club moves on to the program for the night.
“The programs can range from transgender education, to sex-ed, to religion, and LGBTQ issues, to discussion over being a person of color in the community,” said Carlton. “There’s a great amount of variety in the programs.”
Most recently, the SPCGSA has a meeting this semester on people of color in the community, as well as an asexual education meeting, says Carlton.
The SPCGSA also has coordinated with other organizations in the area such as Texas Tech GSA and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
The club also does other community awareness acts. They have a booth at the Halloween carnival, a bake sale for Valentine’s Day, and other small fundraisers throughout the year.
“We have a trans vigil every semester where we discuss violence against transgender people,” Carlton said. “We also participate in area events like the Slut Walk and various Pride events.”
Recently, the club established a Gay Straight Alliance Emergency Fund.
“This fund is used to assist people who were kicked out of their homes as a result of coming out,” Carlton said. “We provide a small amount of money to help these students buy groceries and gas until they can get back on their feet.”
Carlton says that the club can’t give a lot of money, but is happy to give what they can to help. Any donations to the Gay Straight Alliance Emergency Fund can be given at any GSA meeting.