By: Richard Leeds –
With homosexual rights moving to the forefront of conversation in America, Rocky Mountain College’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) works to raise awareness about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Plus (LGBT+) community.
Rhiannon Surrette, a freshman elementary education major from West Hills, Calif., and member of the GSA, said that their goal is largely to educate the population of Rocky about the LGBT+ community, both on campus and in the world today. Surrette said that the GSA is a safe place at Rocky for people who are questioning their sexuality and are nervous to discuss it. She also said that it is a no questions asked place of support which hosts a, “conversation-friendly environment.”
Xander Heyneman, a sophomore business ma- jor from Absarokee, Mont., shows his support with the group as a straight ally. Heyneman said that in his opin- ion promoting marriage equality is the most important thing he can do to help. “People are people. They are no different than anyone else,” Heyneman said on equality. “There’s nothing different.”
In October, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds appellate jurisdiction over several states, in- cluding Montana, ruled that the same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho were unconstitutional. What this means for Montana is that there is now a precedent on same-sex marriages, which means that Montana could be seeing the legalization of same-sex marriages in the near future.
With same-sex marriage on the horizon for Montana, Rocky’s GSA will have even more work ahead of them in order to raise awareness. The GSA hopes to create an environment of acceptance on Rocky’s campus. Part of the goal of the GSA is to, “help make Rocky a safe place for anyone to come out,” Heyneman said. “[GSA] makes it safe for them to be who they really are.”
Kim Woeste, RMC’s chaplin and the faculty ad- visor to the GSA, feels her work with the group is very important on several levels. Woeste said that she hopes to, “demonstrate that not all Christians are judgmental.” She said that there are many religious groups that are affirming and supportive of the LGBT+ community, add- ing that, “God loves everybody.”
Rocky has had a history of supporting diversity, and the GSA is a current facet of that. “Rocky is open to very diverse students and their experiences,” said Woeste. This kind of support can be seen from the Rocky’s Secu- rity team who take the threat of hate-crimes of any kind extremely seriously. The seriousness with which Rocky’s Security takes these threats shows how welcoming Rocky Mountain College is to the diversity they see every year.
The fear of discrimination and hate is still one that preys on the minds of the LGBT+ community. “The hate crimes aren’t as in the forefront for most,” Woeste said, “but the LGBT+ community is still very aware.” She said that the GSA works to raise awareness of persisting problems. “[GSA is about] education as much as it is support.”