SRU presidential commission celebrates October as Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation month

SRU pride center

Oct. 7, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. ¬¬- Workshops, guest speakers, a candlelight vigil and a photo display of LGBT icons and student athletes are some of the events Slippery Rock University will offer during its October Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Commission Month program.

The program includes more than 15 events including an Oct. 19-23 Pride Week organized by RockOUT, a student group.

GISO is one of six presidential commissions. Its purpose is to educate and advocate for understanding and acceptance of all people.

"We want everyone to know no matter how they identify that this is an inclusive campus," said Tim Oldakowski, SRU assistant professor of English and GISO co-chair. "We want to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and intersex issues."

GSIO Month gets under way 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oct. 9, with a Coming Out Day Activity. A door will be set up through which people can "come out" onto the patio outside the Student Government Association Bookstore.

A month-long printed display of LGBTQ icons such as Harvey Milk, Lily Tomlin and Oscar Wilde will be set up on the second floor of the Smith Student Center.

SRU is expanding the reach of its six President's Commission with month-long focuses. Wellness began the year in September, followed by Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, Disability Month in December, Racial and Ethnic Diversity in February, Status of Women in March and Sustainability Month in April.

GISO's mission is to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersexual issues to continue moving SRU toward a more inclusive and supporting campus climate. The GISO Commission chose October for its month because it corresponds with LGBT History Month, said Jodi Solito, director of the SRU Women's Center and Pride Center.

jodi solito

   SOLITO

Solito said SRU's focus comes at an opportune and contentious time. The issue has been in the news often with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize marriage equality in all 50 states.

"Through education and awareness events, GISO and other groups such as RockOUT and The Pride center are informing campus about the LGBTQ community," Solito said. The LGBTQ community is growing, mainly because people are 'coming out' at younger ages and society is slightly more accepting."

She said the LGBTQ community used to be invisible due to the possibility of discrimination and even physical harm.

"As our nation becomes more accepting and understands LGBTQ, more people of all ages may feel less threatened and, consequently, more open about their sexuality," Solito said. "GISO and LGBT History Month are important ways to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of people who just happen to be a part of the LGBT community. Young people - ¬¬and old ones, too - need role models to look up to, and identifying those who are LGBT can provide those role models."

Oldakowski said he hopes the program breaks down what experts call "heteronormativity," which is the belief that most people in society are straight and that all people fall into gender roles in life.

Oldakowski said one of the reasons he is proud of the commission's work is its outreach to students and allies.

"Commissions like this didn't exist when I was a student, and so I want to give students and allies huge support," he said.

Other GISO events will include:

Oct 12: "Queer Lit Book Share" at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 12, in 324 Smith Student Center. Oldakowski will lead a discussion of LGBT books.

Oct. 14: Workshop: "The Changing Landscape of Identity: Understanding and Supporting Students of All Gender Identities and Sexual Orientations," at 3 p.m. in 115 Vincent. Robyn Ochs, an America bisexual activist, will lead the workshop.

Oct. 14: "Loosening the Gender Girdle: How Gender Affects You," a campuswide address by Ochs at 6 p.m., in the Smith Student Center Theater.

Oct. 15: "Spirit Day," wear purple to show your opposition to anti-LGBT bullying.

Oct. 12-Oct. 30: "The Fearless Project" photo exhibit student athletes in high school and colleges in the U.S. and Canada who have come out, Smith Student Center Commuter Lounge from Oct. 12-23 and Art Building from Oct. 26-30.

Oct. 19-23: Pride Week

Oct 17: Jeff Sheng, author and photographer of "The Fearless Project," will talk about his experience, 7 p.m., in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

Oct. 20: "Straight Talk" panel discussion by RockOUT members, 12:30 p.m. in the Advanced Technology and Science Hall Auditorium.

Oct. 20: Movie night, 8 p.m., 105 Vincent. Film to be announced.

Oct. 20: Drag Show, 8 p.m., Student Center Ballroom

Oct. 22: Candlelight vigil to honor and remember LGBT students, staff and faculty, at the SGA Gazebo.

Oct. 23, 8 p.m., Bonfire at the Ski Lodge


MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu