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Over the Rainbow

By Daily Bruin Staff

Oct. 18, 2000 9:00 p.m.

  TenPercent

UCLA students participate in a demonstration calling for gay
rights during the 1980s.

By Julie Yoshioka
Daily Bruin Contributor

Today lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups can stand on
Bruin Walk and promote their organizations.

UCLA, however, has not always accepted them.

In the beginning, even faculty members faced prejudice if they
were members of the LGBT community ““ whether they were in the
closet or openly gay.

“The Gay and Lesbian Faculty Staff Network was started
because the faculty and staff were concerned about the
discrimination that was taking place,” said Al Aubin,
associate director of the Career Center, who is also known as
UCLA’s unofficial historian on LGBT issues.

“The fact was that we did not feel that the climate was
comfortable for LGB faculty, staff, students, and we were concerned
about the resources and services that were being provided to all
members of the campus community,” he continued.

The network held their first meeting at someone’s home
because some people were hesitant to meet on campus.

Slowly, awareness about LGBT issues spread to campus in the form
of education.

English professor Peter Thorslev ““ who was the first
faculty member to come out according to Aubin ““ began
teaching UCLA’s first gay and lesbian literature class in
1976.

Many community members, however, did not support
Thorslev’s example of being open about his sexuality.

  In the early 1990s, many UCLA students protested the ROTC
for not allowing openly gay students to serve in the program and
thus receive scholarships. The military’s current
“Don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” still
doesn’t allow openly gay people to serve. “People
didn’t really take it that well,” Aubin said. “I
think they wanted everyone to stay in the closet.”

After years of planning, the LGBT Studies minor was approved in
1997.

The formation of the Gay and Lesbian Association, now known as
the Multicultural Gay Lesbian bisexual and Transgender Association,
and TenPercent magazine during the 1970s was a stepping stone
toward public awareness and education, but UCLA still had a long
way to go.

“You could be thrown out of the university if you were
found out to be gay,” said LGBT Campus Resource Center
assistant Steven Leider.

“It happened all the time. It was called “˜moral
turpitude,'” he continued. “You had to be of
sound moral character to be a UC student.”

During the first GALA meetings there was even concern of whether
or not members should write their real names on their name
tags.

“In the beginning, we were the only organization that was
overtly tailored to the LGBT community,” said GALA secretary
and sixth-year linguistics student Brenton Jaimes.

The LGBT Campus Resource Center, established in 1995, created
another resource for students, whether they are gay or
straight.

“There are plenty of heterosexual students who are looking
for information to better understand their (LGBT) roommates,
parents, siblings and friends,” Leider said.

To celebrate National Coming Out Month in October, the center is
sponsoring both workshops and speakers. Judy Shepard, the mother of
the Wyoming college student who was murdered a year ago because he
was gay, will be speaking Oct. 30.

In June, the center holds “Lavender Graduation” to
recognize the accomplishments of LGBT students who are
graduating.

During the 1990s, thematic LGBT groups on campus such as La
Familia for Latino students and Mahu for Asian, South Asian and
Pacific Islander students also emerged to cater to a more
ethnically diverse campus.

“We all have a history with each other,” said La
Familia member Xochitl Marquez. “All of the organizations
support each other and we try not to conflict with each
other’s meetings.”

Currently, there are 10 LGBT groups on campus, including
organizations in the UCLA School of Law and The Anderson School at
UCLA.

“They serve as good support mechanisms for
students,” Aubin said. “Many have weekly rap groups to
discuss issues that are important.”

Although there have been strong attempts at promoting
understanding and awareness of LGBT issues on campus, not everyone
has been supportive.

Earlier last week, officials caught someone tearing up a poster
at the GALA office, said Steven P. Waldon, second-year political
science student and GALA finances officer. There have also been
incidents of vandalism in the past to the doors of the GALA and
TenPercent offices.

But not all incidents of homophobia are overt.

“When you have such a diverse campus, and you have people
who may have not been aware of gay or lesbian classmates … they
come to campus and sometimes don’t realize some of the
insensitivity, something that might not be malicious but could be
hurtful,” Aubin said

With the upcoming elections, the LGBT community faces added
concern, he continued.

“It always gets a little more difficult during an election
year when political candidates discuss families and the family
issue,” Aubin said. “Gay and lesbian families do exist,
and not all political beings speak to that issue.”

Jaimes said he hoped that some day, sexual orientation will be a
non-issue. He said he advocates having stronger role models out in
the public.

“We’re influenced so much by the media, and up until
recently, everyone you saw on TV that was gay or lesbian was
portrayed in a stereotypical way,” Jaimes said.
“Hopefully we can help all students, gay and straight alike,
to see that there is more to a gay identity than what you see on
T.V.”

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