Mt. Hood Community College’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) works to make all students feel accepted and welcomed regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The organization’s job is to fight homophobia, and to ensure that LGBTQAI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, asexual/ally, intersex, and individuals who identify their sexuality or gender in other ways) students have the same opportunities as everyone else, according to Emma Jacobson, president of the Mt. Hood GSA.
“In our constitution it says to combat homophobia and represent equality in the school,” said Jacobson. “We’re just trying to represent sexual minorities and the other gender minorities and we try to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else to be happy and successful.”
GSA has evolved through the year to become more of a support group for LGBTQAI+ individuals. Last fall, the group spent most of its time planning for events, but as their planning skills improved, members turned their focus to help those that needed support.
“We’re not so new anymore,” said Jacobson about progress the group has made refocusing its priorities. “We check in with people, make sure they’re okay, make sure they don’t need anything.” If an individual needs support or resources, GSA works to provide whatever is possible to make sure individuals succeed in their academic environment, she said.
On May 14, GSA will put on a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“We’re using it as our main promotion for the universal bathrooms which are up in the 3000 level” of the Academic Center, said Jacobson. “Nobody knows where they are and where to find them, and I just think it’s a very important thing to tell people that they’re there for transgender people who want to go and not have to worry about which bathroom is which.”
The bathrooms are located above the MHCC Library, and GSA found that it took about four minutes to reach a gender-neutral bathroom. “…Which is not a long time, but if you’re rushing in between classes, and you don’t know where it is… it’s hard to find,” said Jacobson.
Currently, GSA is working with the Associated Student Government (ASG) to get add a few gender-neutral bathrooms in more areas on campus.
On May 16, members from GSA will head to Linn-Benton Community College in Albany for the OSERA (Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance) symposium to listen to talks about LGBTQAI+ rights, participate in workshops, and to network.
After an organizational struggle and slow start this academic year, the Mt. Hood group has improved its communication and structure.
“It’s a really good community to be in – everyone is really accepting of everything,” said Jacobson. “You can come and talk about anything.”
GSA meetings are held 1 to 2 p.m. on Mondays in the ASG Council chambers, and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Diversity Resource Center.