The Pride Center is working to break down stereotypes that are keeping the queer and greek communities apart, said psychology senior and Pride Center AmeriCorps VIP staff member Brittni Kiick.
The Pride Center hosts Ally Training to help bridge the gap and educate Cal Poly’s campus about the queer community, Kiick said.
Having more fraternities and sororities on campus participate in Ally Training and learn about the queer community would be a great way for the greek system to get more involved with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and allied (LGBTQIA) students, Sigma Pi fraternity founding member Spencer Lillywhite said.
“It is a good way for the greek system to show them we care, and recognize them and want to stop being offensive,” Lillywhite said.
The Pride Center’s working to get more of the greek system involved and trained as “allies,” said Kiick, who is in charge of Ally Training this year.
Allies are people who accept and support the LGBTQIA community — and Ally Training can change relationships and how you interact with people on a daily basis, especially when it comes to getting involved with greek life, she said.
“If you want to be a part of a fraternity, but you’re afraid you’re going to have to be closeted the whole time, that is really going to hurt your greek and college experience,” Kiick said.
It isn’t just students who can benefit from the training. The queer community involved in the Pride Center puts a lot of stock into little things, so when they see the “I am an Ally” badge on a teacher’s door, it really means a lot, Kiick said.
“If when they were going through rush (week) and they went by a booth that had something like the ally badge on their booth, more queer students would feel comfortable coming out to their brothers and sisters,” Kiick said.
Ally Training is not a prerequisite to being supportive and accepting of LGBTQIA people. It is the Pride Center’s way of making sure students who have questions about the queer community have a safe space to come and ask those questions and overcome stereotypes.
“A lot of people that are supportive of the queer community may say in their mind ‘love is love,’ but they don’t know that the word ‘homosexual’ is actually offensive — they don’t know the history behind these terms,” Kiick said. “Ally Training is a place to learn about all the things that can make you a super ally.”
Straight people don’t necessarily always relate to the LGBTQIA community, and it can make people feel alienated, Lillywhite said. Being trained can also be a good way to help avoid that alienation.
“It would be uncomfortable if you didn’t know somebody was gay, and then, you found out later that he was,” Lillywhite said. “I would wonder if he was attracted to me, and it could be kind of awkward.”
Ally trainers say it is a typical stereotype for people to assume that if someone comes out to a student, they must “like” them, but usually that is not the case, said Kaitlyn Wilson, a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority who participated in Ally Training last year.
“Part of the presentation was what to do if a sister or anyone you know ever ended up being gay, and how we could help them through the process,” Wilson said. “They taught you what to say how to approach them, and what questions you need to ask.”
Ally Training is important not just in the greek system, but campus wide, and even nationwide, Wilson said.
The Pride Center has already trained 319 people since the beginning of fall quarter, and more than 1,500 have participated in Ally Training overall, Kiick said.
“I’ve had students cry during Ally Training, and say, ‘I didn’t know that I was hurting my roommate,’” Kiick said.
Everything learned in Ally Training is valuable, but if there is one thing the Pride Center would like everyone to walk away with, it is the normalization of the queer community, Kiick said.
This article was written by Bethany Schmidt.
SIDE BAR INFO:
Ally Training is a two-hour, discussion-style workshop.
The discussion is led by Pride Center members.
Eight to 15 people typically participate at one time.
It is offered to staff, faculty, and students.
An ally is: “A person, often straight, who is accepting and supportive of the LGBTQ community.”
Visit the Pride Center website for a full list of trained allies on Cal Poly’s campus.
*information from the Pride Center website