Members of a panel on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the multicultural community at the College of William and Mary called on students to be fluent in more than just their own identity Tuesday.
The panel addressed a packed room of mostly students in Blow Hall, and included John Paul Torcivia J.D. ’11, Jahazeb Akbar ’11, David Goode-Cross of the College’s Counseling Center, Jessee Vasold ’11, sociology department chair Thomas Linneman and Assistant to College President Taylor Reveley for Diversity and Community Initiatives Fanchon Glover.
Another first in the College’s long history, the panel was hosted by the Center for Student Diversity to encourage discussion amongst different parts of the College community on LGBT issues.
“When you look at mainstream media today, the LGBTQ community is still notorious for being a gay, white, upper class male and that is very homogenous and should be worked on,” Linneman said. “Everybody wants you on their committee because they expect you to represent multiple groups.”
Panelists characterized their experience as members of the LGBT community in relation to other parts of their identities as well as within the College community and society at large.
“It requires a daily hyper-vigilance and is usually exhausting,” Goode-Cross said. “As a black male, I am usually mistaken for other black males in other LGBTQ groups.”
Akbar noted the restricting effects his Muslim heritage has had on expressing his full identity.
“I think I have been born with an innate self-edit button,” he said. “When I first met members of the Muslim Student Association, I knew how to act in order to hide my sexuality. But in my experience, when leaders of clubs express tolerance, members generally fall in line and become tolerant.”
All agreed when moderator Margery Cook described the LGBT experience as a daily tension between two worlds, where an LGBT person can wholly identify with neither world.
As a transgender student, Jessee Vasold ’11 no longer goes to the Recreation Center because there are no transgender showers.
“I travel to Virginia Beach every month to a transsexual group. For a shared community, the answer was not at William and Mary,” Vasold said.
In response, Glover noted that a unisex bathroom exists, but admitted that the remote entrance, which requires passage through either the male or female bathrooms or the pool, is not satisfactory.
“We are currently discussing these types of issues,” Glover said. “If it wasn’t for students like Jessee, these discussions would not have begun. We have come a long way from when the campus structure was separatist.”
For the future, a forum focusing on feedback from students on classroom LGBT discussion was suggested.
Cook ended the panel with a motto: “You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where we won’t go.”