LGBT students ask for center, senator

When Karlee Berezay told her dad she was a lesbian, he asked her to justify her sexual orientation.

“He wanted me to bring him information about why I think it’s OK,” Berezay said.

She went to the LGBTQA Center at Utah State University and checked out a film from the center’s library to show her dad. The film contended sexual orientation is inherited and not chosen.

“It’s not a choice,” Berezay said. “I think that was the biggest thing I wanted to let my dad know. I didn’t just one day wake up and be like, ‘You know what would be really cool? Being gay. Being gay would be cool.'”

Berezay, a member of Weber State University’s Gay-Straight Alliance, is one of several students who have written letters that are being compiled by the LBGT Initiative — an organization funded by WSU — asking WSU to give them a center on campus and an LGBTQA senator.

“My letter was from the point of view of knowing what it would change, because I’ve accessed a center at USU,” Berezay said. “It was nice for me to be able to go and get pamphlets from people who have written about their child being gay. I wanted my dad to understand that me being gay isn’t going to change anything about who I am.”

The letters are just part of the LGBT Initiative’s effort to gather data proving a need for both an LGBTQA center and a student senator to represent LGBTQA students. The initiative also plans to present a compilation of surveys, letters and other data to the senate in the middle of the spring 2012 semester. A 2010 WSU survey indicated 92 percent of WSU students identify themselves as heterosexual. The remaining 8 percent didn’t answer or identified themselves as LGBTQA students.

“There are quite a bit of people; we have about 1,000 people that identify as being part of the LGBT community,” said Kelsey Capoferri, GSA president at WSU. ” . . . it’s really important that they know that there’s, like, a support system for them, and I think it’s a shame that there’s so many of us, yet they don’t know it.”

The surveys will also examine what services LGBTQA students would like from an LGBTQA center. Harrison Spendlove, a diversity advocate for the LGBT Initiative, would like the center to include a resource library and said the center would function as an access point to counseling services.

“That initial step of someone coming into the LGBT center because they feel comfortable there when they’re not necessarily comfortable stepping into the counseling center could save a life,” Spendlove said, explaining there’s a high suicide rate amongst LGBTQA people.

Spendlove said the counseling center has reported that many LGBTQA students already come in for counseling. The report that will be presented to the senate next semester will include a letter of endorsement from the counseling center.

“They feel there are probably more out there who just are scared,” Spendlove said. “We see the LGBT center being that foot in the door to helping people get the help they really need.”

When the center was first discussed in a student senate meeting two weeks ago, it was widely supported by senators, but they also questioned whether the center would provide services not already available to students.