Whether you’re living with family or on your own during the quarantine, life can be difficult for many LGBTQ students. The UNF LGBT Resource Center is committed to staying connected to students through virtual events, social media, and support groups – there’s usually something for students to do, every day of the week.
Manny Valesquez, Director of Student Affairs at the LGBT Resource Center, sat down with Spinnaker to discuss the big wins during Pride month.
“As soon as we went into lockdown, we actually created virtual programs,” Velasquez said. “We’ve been doing virtual events every single day, and virtual programs every single week to make sure that our students remain engaged with us.”
-To start off the week, every Monday at 3 p.m., there is a Zoom support group for all LGBTQIA+ students. And on social media outlets, new artists and songs are provided online to celebrate #MusicalMotiviationMondays.
-Tuesdays are #TeachingTuesdays, where the LGBT Resource Center discusses important concepts and people in history.
-Wednesdays are about creating community with FlixFest, a movie night where students can watch Netflix together from the safety of home.
-Lastly, #ThrowbackThursdays are spent educating allies and the public about the ongoing fight for equal rights in the LGBT community, along with #FlashbackFridays.
Despite the many setbacks students and organizations have felt, there are many ways to stay in touch and find the support you need.
In June of this year, the LGBTQ community saw important legal strides made towards equal rights on both the local and federal level.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the new SCOTUS [Supreme Court of The United States] ruling, to figure out where we go from here” Velasquez said. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the next steps are.”
In Jacksonville, the city council updated the Human Rights Ordinance to include a detailed path for enforcement of LGBTQ protections. The HRO was passed on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and it offered legal protections against discrimination regarding housing, health care, and employement. The HRO was updated and passed yet again, in support of the LGBTQ community, which gives hope for many members of the youth.
“Hopefully, the HRO will protect them, and according to the law they cannot be discriminated against because of their gender and gender identity – that’s the main goal […] It’s yet to be seen how the community will handle that particular situation.”
The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of LGBT rights, regarding adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the anti-discrimantion laws, specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The SCOTUS upheld the Title VII’s textual definition of the term “sex” to legally include a person’s gender identity and their sexual opientation. This precedent protects the employment of people who may be transitioning genders, as well as reaffirms that sexuality is not grounds for firing someone or refusing to hire them.
“I am elated that it actually went through with the vote that it did – six to three. It sent a resounding, ‘yes’ to everybody that we are equal. We cannot be discriminated against just based on our gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Velasquez.
The path to federal protections began with Amy Stevens, a trans woman working at a funeral home, who was fired when she told her boss that she was transitioning. Stevens recently passed away after fighting this case for years. However, Stevens’s case won in the Supreme Court. She is the first trans woman to speak to the highest court in America, making sure that topics like gender identity and trans rights are being discussed nationally.
“She is definitely a trailblazer,” Velasquez said. “If we go back to the origins of the LGBT movement during the Stonewall Era, there is so much that we need to learn from our own historical perspective. For example in the 1970s, a lot of trans folks were actually shunned by the community. They were not considered to be members of the gay movement, even though Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia (Rivera) were the ones considered to be the (first) to have thrown the first brick during the Stonewall Riots. They were considered the ones who started the whole movement […] I hope that future generations understand the struggle because it’s part of history.”
Before her passing, Stevens said that there is more work to be done in the LGBTQ community.
“My belief is that there is still a lot of work to be done. There’s still a lot of rules, laws, and guidelines that need to be passed in order for us to have equality,” said Velasquez.
“The LGBT Resource Center will be hosting a virtual networking event in November to raise money for their center. The event is called “Building Bridges, Creating Communities.” The purpose is to discuss and fund “educational programs, student support, scholarships, and leadership development that spread awareness and knowledge about LGBT issues, people, and experiences,” said Velasqeuz.
For more information about the UNF LGBT Resource Center, go to their website, follow them on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram.
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