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LGBT presidents promote visibility, safety

Staff reporter

Published: Monday, January 31, 2011

Updated: Monday, January 31, 2011 20:01

From the debate over same-sex marriage to President Obama repealing the long-standing "don't ask, don't tell" policy, issues that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have taken a prominent role in public discourse.

These issues, including the rise in hate crimes and antigay bullying, have been a focal point and prompted many groups nationwide to foster efforts that will ensure equality, engage community and embrace gays as members of American society.

Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton has joined one of the many efforts to promote all of these areas as a part of the LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education.

The popular addition of the letter "Q" represents "queer" or "questioning."

In a recent Sun-Time's article, Middleton discussed the group of 30 gay and lesbian university leaders formed in 2010 that aims to advocate the advancement of gays to leadership positions.

While Middleton playfully describes himself as an "out, bearded, bald, gay president" in the group's online video, his inspiration to join was more significant.

"It was a collective decision reached by several of us after we discovered that in the last decade our numbers

had grown from two to over 20," he shares. "We thought it would be good to meet together and support each other in our presidential work by sharing some of the personal experiences related to being an LGBTQ individual in higher education."

These types of groups that provide a sense of community for LGBT individuals is also incorporated on the student level with organizations such as RU Proud, Roosevelt's longest standing student organization.

Kai Barnhill, a sophomore and leader in RU Proud, contends that it is all about creating visibility of the community and, more importantly, creating a safe, welcoming environment for students. "We're just a bunch of friends hanging out that all agree in LGBT rights and equality," she said.

On what it means to have Middleton upholding these same kinds of efforts through his own group, Barnhill shares, "I think it's really incredible that President Middleton is working to ensure inclusiveness of LGBT individuals in higher education positions and it's powerful to know that our president is a part of our community."

SGA president and member of RU Proud, Ari Shroyer, who is openly gay, feels it's an important way to keep the conversation going. "Academia especially needs to carry the mantle of progress concerning LGBT issues. Those of us in higher education have an obligation to tell the true story of the complexities of human sexuality and the dangers of suppressing such an intimate aspect of an individual's psyche."

Despite the many complexities that still exist, the LGBT community has made great strides and continues to see immense progression over recent decades that both Middleton and Shroyer can attest to as part of different generations.

"We have seen the normalization and effort of the integration of homosexuality becoming a very real aspect of American society. While we certainly have not reached a manifestation of these efforts to truly become legitimized, the very fact it is on the table is an enormous success," Shroyer said

Middleton foresees further growth and a promising future. "The changes in civil rights have been extraordinary over the course of my lifetime, even though we have a way to go in all areas. I see the growing public support for nondiscrimination of LGBTQ people, particularly over the past decade or so, to be part of that American narrative."

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