University, student groups strive to make campus supportive of LGBT community
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 11:04
Students also say that Tufts could do more to support its transgender students and point to Keith Ablow, who is affiliated with the Tufts University School of Medicine, as an example. Ablow attracted widespread media attention with public comments he made last fall that were widely perceived as transphobic.
“I wouldn’t consider our school to be trans friendly. One reason is because of the Keith Ablow incident, obviously, where there was no university response denouncing what he said,” Griffiths said.
Although the university did not formally denounce Ablow’s comments, University President Anthony Monaco sent an email to the Tufts community reaffirming the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Monaco explained that Ablow was not an employee of the university and that his remarks should not be attributed to the university.
Griffiths also expressed a desire for further trans programming.
“There could also be more programming reaching out to transgendered people who could learn more and be better allies,” she said.
Tyson explained that the university does make an attempt to provide necessities for transgender students.
“Tufts is a very different experience for people who are trans,” he said. “Recently Tufts has been trying to address that issue with gender-neutral housing and more [unisex] bathrooms so students can focus less on day-to-day hurdles and more on higher education.”
Additionally, while Tufts is known as a queer-friendly environment, LGBT students still face discrimination, Bourdon said.
“While overall an LGBT-friendly campus, we are by no means immune to the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that exists in the world,” Bourdon said. “Incidents still happen from time to time and we do our best to address the problems as they occur, but also be proactive so that hopefully we will see fewer, or even better, none one day in the future.”
Tyson said that while he has not experienced any severe instances of homophobia, he has dealt with micro-aggressions from other students.
“There have been a couple of instances where I have my arm around another guy, and a small fraction might stare, but I never deal with aggressive encounters,” Tyson said. “Also, a lot of times people might accidently say stuff that might be offensive, but they don’t mean it as an attack.”
“I think that the times I hear about issues, it’s always involved Greek life,” Griffiths said. “There are frats that are super accepting, but I do consistently hear about incidents about people at parties being called homophobic slurs.”
Mears added that TUPD acts as a support system to deal with LGBT discrimination.
“When we do see anti-LGBT stuff, we take photos and send it to the Tufts police department,” Mears said. “They make it known that they want to help us in any way possible.”
In Tyson’s opinion, some of the most important issues for LGBT students at Tufts are issues that go beyond their life on the Hill.
“There are a lot of students who wind up getting emancipated from their families, who have a lot of drama with their families, who don’t enjoy going back home and have to go back into the closet when they go back home,” Tyson said.
Overall, many students say they feel that Tufts is, in general, a friendly environment for queer students.
“It has earned its ranking as one of the top schools, at least for LGB students,” Tyson said. “Overall for LGB folks, it’s an environment where we aren’t harassed or bullied, and people are very accepting.”
Mears agreed that she feels comfortable being open about her sexuality here.
“Even as a staff member, I would absolutely call Tufts an LGBTQ-friendly campus,” she said. “I’ve never been out at work before, but because of the Center, I feel more comfortable being out at work.”
Mears went on to say that the two years she’s worked on the Hill have shown her that the LGBT student population at Tufts is very luck.
“I went to a state school, and there is a much more open environment here,” she said. “Students are generally very open and very proud, and they like to let people know they are welcome.”
Hegarty said she would also call Tufts an LGBT-friendly campus, but with some reservations.
“It’s complicated. Tufts is working toward full inclusion, and I would rather be at Tufts as a queer individual than at many places I applied,” she said. “It’s not perfect, but we’re working every day to make ourselves progressively more queer. It’s not a queer best friendship, but definitely a queer friendship.”