Lesbian/Gay Center Opens at USU

By By U Wire

By U Wire

LOGAN?Utah State University’s first gay and lesbian student services center will open its door to the campus community and the public on Thursday, National Coming Out Day.

The opening reception will be held at 7 p.m. in Room 122 of the Military Science Building while the actual Coming Out Day activities will take place at the Taggart Student Center.

The primary reason for the center is to serve the needs of the campus community, said Patricia Terrell, vice president for Student Services. She said the center will be a place where everyone can obtain resources and information about sexually oriented issues.

The creation of the center started three years ago shortly after the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, Terrell said. Many of the gay students were scared and wanted a place where they could feel comfortable having a confidential conversation, she said.

“The initial question was about safety and the perception of safety,” said Tim Nuttle, a graduate student majoring in ecology who is also a member of the Pride! Alliance executive board. Nuttle has been working with Terrell for the past three years to make the center a reality.

Volunteers will be the primary staff of the center, said Courtney Moser, the adviser for Pride! Alliance.

The center will provide a library of non-fiction books and video tapes which can also be used as research materials for students, Nuttle said.

“If you are a gay person and starting to come out, it is very hard to find books, and it is very hard to go for any sort of advice,” Moser said. “A physical address where people can actually go and talk to a real-life person is helpful.”

“Minorities need to have a sense of community to make them feel like there is a place for them, that they are welcome, and that there are people like them to share experiences from similar background,” Nuttle said. “The university needs to provide that because if they don’t, they can’t meet their goals of attracting a diverse population of students.”

“In the last three weeks, we are seeing the need for greater tolerance in this country for people who are different from ourselves,” Terrell said. “And we do not assume that everyone will support or condone this office for gay students. We will just ask for their tolerance.”

Terrell said there certainly were conflicts during the process of the center’s organization.

The issue of sexual orientation is still a divisive and an evolving issue. People have opinions on homosexuality, she said.

“I can guarantee that you can open any office here in the university and there will be oppositions,” Terrell said.

“The main part is that USU has a non-discrimination policy based on sexual orientation, and this office is an outgrowth of the policy to meet the needs of the students,”she said.

Emily Pleshe, chairwoman of the National Coming Out Day committee, said the reason the center opens on National Coming Out Day is because it is a collective day in which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people decide to come out. It is a day to show solidarity and that they are like everyone else, she said.

“By and large it provides a human experience,” Nuttle said. “It lets straight people know that there are gay people in the community.”

“Coming out is a very psychologically healthy thing to do for a gay person,” Moser said. “The incidents of depression and suicide are much higher among gay people who have not yet come out. Coming out is a soul freeing experience, which is a very emotional, liberating and healthy thing to do.”

“Finding out that there are people like me is very helpful,” Pleshe said.

“Ethically, it is the right thing to do,” Terrell said. “My role is to be a champion to every student here on campus. If I ever lose sight of that, I will have to find another line of work.”