The weekend before Adrienne Michelson helped lead a rally on the Oval, she said she was verbally assaulted by three men off campus, and that the confrontation quickly turned physical.
“I was attacked just off campus for being gay,” she said. “I got hit in the face because of what I believe in, and that should never happen to anybody.”
Michelson, a third-year in political science, spoke out about the attack, a story familiar to some within the LGBTQ community. And, on Sunday, she rallied with Pride OSU and other allies to call on the greater Ohio State community to do the same.
Members and allies of the LGBTQ community gathered on the Oval during a speakOUT rally to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community at OSU and give voice to those who cannot speak out against LGBTQ violence and discrimination.
The rally, organized in collaboration with several LGBTQ student organization leaders, served as a venue to address challenges faced by LGBTQ students at OSU, as well as outline what the university and students can do to overcome them, said Leila Elaqad, a third-year in sociology and co-president of SHADES, a student organization for people of color.
Elaqad, who helped organize and lead the rally on the Oval, said student organizers chose the location to keep the focus on OSU, presenting a list of demands of not only the administration but of students to raise awareness of the steps they could take toward improvement.
The demands, also found on the SpeakOUT OSU Facebook page, are as follows:
List of demands of OSU:
- Lower co-pays for transgender and HIV-related healthcare.
- Increase the quality and availability of mental healthcare, hire counselors with the cultural competence to deal with the effects of LGBTQ trauma.
- Implement a sexual assault prevention plan that is effective and addresses the concerns of the LGBTQ community including corrective sexual assault.
- Provide adequate resources to survivors of violence in the LGBT community.
- Develop student housing models that ensure that LGBT students who live on campus can feel safe in their own homes.
- Require diversity/sensitivity training from all faculty and staff and hold them accountable for treating students with respect.
The group also presented a list of demands of the OSU community, stated:
- Speak OUT! when you see people being harassed, watch them walk away, make sure they’re not being followed.
- Speak OUT! when your friends make homophobic/transphobic jokes. Your courtesy laughs are what empower them to repeat those “jokes” at LGBTQ people on the street.
- If you say something homophobic/transphobic, don’t speak out, LISTEN UP.
“The point of circulating this list of demands is, of course, to make the administration aware of what the LGBTQ student body needs, but also to make the attendants of the rally aware that there are tangible methods of improvement for these problems that we’re facing,” Elaqad said.
Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said the university believes every OSU student deserves an “opportunity to have an extraordinary student experience.”
“We value all members of the community, and work constantly to ensure that the university provides the support necessary to allow all our students to succeed and thrive. That effort includes creating an environment where students can safely be themselves,” he added in an email. “We are proud that Campus Pride has again recognized Ohio State for being one of the friendliest campuses in the nation for LGBTQ students and we look forward to continuing our support to ensure that Ohio State remains a leader in this regard.”
Elaqad said several LGBTQ student leaders have met with OSU administrators in the past year and feel their concerns are starting to be heard, adding that OSU should continue to strive toward being known as having an LGBTQ-friendly campus.
“I think it is known, to some extent, as a campus that is LGBTQ friendly, and that makes us look good; that makes people want to go here when they know this is an accepting environment and an environment committed to the safety of their students,” she said.
Jeff Rolland, a second-year in computer science, said that “SpeakOUT represents hope.”
“Hope that in the future, we won’t have to hide the ‘bad’ parts of ourselves because they aren’t bad,” he said.
Rolland added he wants “to live in a world where hate doesn’t trump love anymore.”
He and about 70 other students marched down the brick path of the Oval, carrying signs, sharing stories and chanting for continued progress in the fight for equality and justice.
And although the rally was held on the first National Coming Out Day after the Supreme Court same-sex ruling, some students like Eliana Dobres, a second-year in speech and hearing, said the fight for equality is not over and they want to make sure that members of the LGBTQ community at OSU know they matter.
“More people need to realize that marriage equality isn’t the end of the fight,” she said. “We still need to be accepted in our communities.”
Michelson said she joined the student organization Out Loud, before transferring from OSU Mansfield. Once in Columbus, she said she found Pride OSU, which helped her feel a sense belonging through inclusion and support.
“So many people in the LGBTQ community do not come out because they are scared,” Michelson said. “I just want everyone to be safe and accepted.”
Update: Oct. 14, 2015
This article was updated to better represent the objectives of the SpeakOUT rally, with additional information from Leila Elaqad, an organizer of the rally, and Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Ohio State Office of Student Life.