As many of students have been made aware by the surge of color coursing throughout the C building, last week was Ally Week. The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer and Questioning Resource Center hosted an entire week dedicated to coming together as a community and looking past differences, biases and cultural stereotypes.
Ron Rodriguez, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center at Bellevue College and coordinator of the event on campus, shared that even though the week-long event focused largely on supporting the LGBTQ community, the overall scope was to address “our alliances between each other, our intersectionalities and to raise that awareness” of what it truly means to be human within a complex community.
Ally Week was created by an organization called Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, or GLSEN. GLSEN primarily operates with K-12 education but makes efforts with other organizations to support people by helping to organize events that raise awareness regarding the hardships that young adults can likely go through as a result of the bigotry of others.
Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day, a day where students who felt the need to hide their identities have the opportunity to come out among a group of supportive peers. Music pumped through the student commons as a potluck teemed with people eager to meet and enjoy themselves. Donna Sullivan, administrative assistant to the vice president of instruction and attendee of the event, said, “I definitely support this event; I hope we have it every year. I think it’s important to support these students.”
As the potluck food dwindled, Rodriguez gathered the crowd and ushered them slowly towards the auditorium in the N Building where the Tony award-winning film “Kinky Boots,” a story about pushing past cultural biases to address, accept and thrive with people of the LGBTQ community, was played.
Rodriguez described the drive behind Ally Week at BC as a result of his “past experiences, and what I don’t want to see other people go through. I don’t want to see young people go through the kind of rejection and abandonment issues I had faced, and that I know some of them fear actually facing.”
Brian Jackson, who has been Ron Rodriguez’s partner for 22 years, said how proud he was of Ron. “He has done all of this and put all this together. What a great change it has been to see kids have this opportunity versus when I was a kid.”
The positive influence of support on National Coming Out Day empowered some LGBTQ students to come out at home. Rodriguez said he was concerned about “the backlash that some of them are facing … I’ve had to extend an invitation, because we have extra rooms at the house, if they needed a place to go. I don’t want to see them ending up on the streets because that’s what happened to me when I was younger.”
“Ally Week is not just to raise awareness for the LGBTQ community … Our community is made up of every other community; we aren’t a race, we aren’t an ethnicity, we are a community of people that identify at some other level that social norms don’t apply to. But we are made up of every other community. We are a part of the world. I start to think about, well, ‘why is it that we’re only talking about equal rights just for our [LGBTQ] community, when really there are a lot of groups that are marginalized that all make up part of our LGBTQ community?’ And so, Ally Week is to honor all of those groups; it’s to honor the people who aren’t physically capable, [or who have hidden or visible disabilities, or those who don’t feel safe or comfortable within their own communities,]” Rodriguez said.
“I think it’s important to support all our brothers and sister,” said Alex Clark, ASG environmental and social responsibility representative.
Students, faculty and staff alike were proud of the outcome and hope its influence will prosper. “I’m so proud of Bellevue College for creating a safe place for all students,” said Leslie Newquist, interim dean for the Health Sciences, Education and Wellness Institute.
Sai Guo, Peer-to-Peer coordinator added, “I’ve been helping, setting up and recruiting volunteers. Lots of energy, people are friendly and nice. This event makes my job easier; people think this is a fun event and they are very eager to volunteer. For some events, I have a hard time recruiting volunteers.”
Katie Baker, a student and leader at the Bellevue College LGBTQ Resource Center said, “Thank you, everybody, for you support on my gender journey.” Katie added, “You don’t have to be part of the LGBTQ community [to come hang out as an ally. ]” The LGBTQ Resouce Center is committed to being open to everyone.
“We all should be working together to raise this conciseness, this awareness that we’re all in it together,” Rodriguez concluded, “we all should get along. There’s just no reason to leave anyone behind.”