James Mellor

Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day to express love – even through
something as simple as holding hands.

Cal Poly’s Pride Alliance Center: LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender) student group has organized a Valentine’s Day event, Same
Sex Handholding Day, to raise awareness on campus for these
individuals.

“Basically, it raises awareness that we are here on campus,” LGBT
student coordinator Stephen Cohen said. “There is a large number of
LGBT students who go to school here, and there’s an even larger number
of allies who go to school here. It raises awareness that there’s
nothing extraordinary or incredibly different about us than who our
partners are.”

The main event starts at 11 a.m. with a march from Dexter Lawn to the
University Union. Both heterosexual and same sex couples will be
holding hands to “affirm everyone’s right to love who they want to
love,” Cohen said.

Once the march reaches the UU, a live art display will take place as a
mock wedding ceremony/courthouse preceding. The heterosexual couples
will walk up holding hands and “get married.” However, there will be a
judge, instead of a priest, that stops the same sex couples from
getting married.

The group hopes the march and demonstration will raise awareness and
challenge the comfort levels around campus regarding same sex couples.
“Sometimes (members of the LGBT community) feel uncomfortable holding
hands with someone they’re dating,” LGBT student coordinator Angela
Kramer said.

“It’s not common place and people stare,” Cohen added.

Several other events to raise awareness for same sex couples will
occur throughout the day.

There will also be a demonstration, similar to the one in the UU, for
marriage equality at noon at the San Luis Obispo County Clerk’s
office. Cohen said the purpose of this demonstration is to raise
awareness throughout the community.

Back on campus, a California Equity representative will lead a
discussion on marriage equality in the Sandwich Factory at 5:30 p.m.
Slam poet Thea Hillman will wrap up the day with a performance dealing
with gender identity inside the Sandwich Factory at 7 p.m.
“Ally Training” will also take place on campus every hour from 9 a.m.
to 3 p.m. Anyone interested in participating in any of these events
can call the Pride Alliance center at 756-7733.

The Pride Alliance center is open to all students, faculty and
community members and is located in between the science buildings,
near the back of the bookstore.

“Straight kids come in all the time,” Kramer said.

“We want everyone on campus regardless of age, nationality, sexuality,
race, to feel comfortable here in the center,” she added. “It’s not
just for gay students, it’s for allies, friends and family to come
in.”

The center offers students many different research opportunities:
Marriage equality, HIV/AIDS, LGBT youth in high schools and in
college, LGBT programs, literature, connection to counseling and
community resources. Also inside the center is a TV and VCR, in
addition to three computers people can use at any time.

According to the LGBT coordinators, there are several issues that
affect same sex couples at Cal Poly daily, one being marriage
equality, an issue Kramer says specifically affects her.

“If I wanted to, if I was at a point where I was ready to marry, I
couldn’t legally do that,” she said. “It’s not recognized as something
that’s real.”

However, Kramer said being comfortable being open and out is the
biggest issue for her.

“A lot of people have the notion that Cal Poly is a really
conservative campus, and in a lot of ways it is,” she said. “But, I
think a lot of students would be surprised how open-minded and
accepting the students, staff and faculty really are. At least in my
experience.”

Cohen, on the other hand, said the climate on campus is what troubles
him most commonly.

“People, a lot of times even unintentionally, say things or act in
ways that make other people uncomfortable,” he said. “I feel like
there are a lot of students here who aren’t ‘out,’ and they struggle
with coming out. I feel if the climate was a little bit more
inclusive, those students could put less energy on concealing that
part of themselves and more energy in to living their lives.”

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