SRU’s GISO Commission launches LGBT 101 program


LGBT rainbow holding hands

April 21, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - With an eye on promoting awareness, expanding knowledge and fostering inclusion of the LGBT community, Slippery Rock University's President's Commission on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation has developed an interactive workshop, organizers have dubbed "LGBT 101."

tim oldakowski


The program was created earlier this year in response to a request from AVI, which was looking to address sensitivity training on the topic for its 90-plus employees at the University.

"The commission had talked about doing something like this in the past, but AVI's request really pushed us to make it a reality" said Tim Oldakowski, assistant professor of English and GISO co-chair. "The University offers Safe Zone training for faculty and staff, but that's a comprehensive, half-day endeavor which AVI couldn't commit to doing."

"We needed something a little shorter and something we could adapt and provide for multiple audiences," Oldakowski said. "So the commission went to work crafting a new program that would accomplish that and we're very happy with what we developed."

That development, which has since been presented on two other occasions - once for HOPE Peer educators and a second time for a group of Andrew Winters' philosophy students - is a two-hour, LGBT information tour de force featuring:

Introduction to LGBT terminology;

  • "First impressions," where attendees are asked where they were first exposed to LGBT persons (home, work, media, etc.);
  • Nationwide statistics as they fit into the dialogue and activities of the presentation, including such items as six in 10 LGBT student report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation;
  • "Coming Out" scenarios where participants are walked through a possible coming out experience of an LGBT person. The exercise is designed to demonstrate that coming out is not a one-time event and highlights a few of the possible social and legal ramifications of coming out;
  • "Heterosexual Privileges for Sale," in which participants are provided a list of 10 things that every heterosexual couple has no issues with, including: getting married in a church, not being judged by family and not getting fired for being with their partner. Each item is valued at $100. Participants are then given different scenarios in which they are a member of the LGBT community and asked which items they would "purchase," based on the monies provided them in the exercise; and

Talk on the dos and don'ts of becoming an LGBT ally.

"This program is meant to provide an introduction to the LGBT community for those that aren't," said Oldakowski. "It provides an overview on to be sensitive, how to open and maintain a dialogue, how to problem solve and how to avoid issues that could affect both parties."

Oldakowski said that GISO hopes to expand the program's reach through its possible integration into a mandatory program for both new University employees and incoming freshman.

"We're already do a lot in offering LGBT education and support through Safe Zone, the Pride Center and RockOUT," he said. "But if we can figure out a way to add this to the mix, I think it would be very beneficial.

"A lot of the participants we've already encountered tell us afterward that they didn't know what was or wasn't acceptable before attending and that they found the information incredibly helpful.

"It's all about inclusion. Everyone is different and if we can share knowledge that will foster growth and understanding and allow everyone to treat one another with the respect, we should. Hopefully we're making a positive impact."

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