LGBT Student Services encourages students to reach out to help prevent discrimination

Kayla Kienzle

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are many times subject to discrimination, hate crimes or targeted for their identity.

In 2008, the Hate Violence Report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence showed 29 anti-LGBT murders were committed in 2008. In 2011, 211 people were murdered out of anti-transgender bias, according to the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, statistics show that in schools, 14.2 percent of transgender students reported being physically assaulted while 30.4 percent experienced physical harassment.

However, Iowa State doesn’t seem to mirror national trends.

The Iowa State Policy clearly states that the university’s goal is to prevent the occurrence of discriminatory and harassing activity and to stop such conduct. However, at Iowa State, it is likely that discrimination does take place, according to the LGBT Student Services Center. Discrimination aimed at LGBT individuals can take many forms.

“Someone yelling something on Lincoln Way or on Welch can target an individual’s identity,” said Brad Freihoefer, LGBT Student Services coordinator.

The way discrimination affects individuals depends on the person. Like any form of discrimination, behavior that is directed at someone because of their protected class can affect individuals emotionally, physically, academically and socially.

“Think if you told someone you were switching majors and they were never going to talk to you again and how you would feel,” Freihoefer said, referring to how some are discriminated against after coming out.

For the LGBT community, coming out can be risky, especially for those who do not have a strong support network.

“Telling people close to them can be scary and nerve-racking,” Freihoefer said. “It’s often tricky to navigate and plan how to go about coming out.”

Although there are not exact numbers, according to the LGBT Student Services Center, Iowa State has a large population of transgendered individuals.

In order to know how to stop discrimination, Freihoefer said it’s important to know what it is.

“Understanding power and privilege, using more dialog with conversation and education are ways one can improve,” Freihoefer said.

Freihoefer also mentioned that keeping the lens of social justice plays a key part in developing equality.

Those who come into Freihoefer’s office at the LGBT Student Services Center have concerns that are all over the board.

“We want to make students feel like they’re not the only one,” Freihoefer said.

Iowa State is the only university in the state with its own center dedicated to providing resources and support for members of the LGBT community.

“I am excited about the progress the university has made. We are privileged to have great collaboration with [Freihoefer’s] office to help students and employees,” said Jessica Stolee, program coordinator in the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office.

Iowa State also uses a program called Safezone. The familiar stickers on offices of professors and in other areas on campus ensure equal treatment for all.

The Equal Opportunity Office has not had many cases involving discrimination against LGBT individuals.

“Our office hasn’t received much traffic at all regarding LGBT, but we include students, staff and faculty to contact us if they feel they have been discriminated or harassed against,” Stolee said.

Reaching out can play an active role to ensure others have support and are comfortable.

“It’s about having allies, people who support each other,” Freihoefer said. “For example, we have those in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community that support transgender individuals and vice versa and I encourage that.”

The LGBT Student Services Center recently celebrated its 20th year on Iowa State’s campus. The mission of the center is to provide a safe space in an open and nonjudgmental atmosphere to provide advocacy and support.

The center is in the Student Services Building and open daily. All students are encouraged to come take advantage of resources in the office.