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LGBTQAI+ and Allies Club ‘Comes Out’

Southern Virginia University Knights welcome the LGBTQAI+ and Allies Club to campus and invite students, staff, and community members to meetings every other Sunday at 7 pm. Contact President Jill Stevenson on the Knight App for location details.

You might be asking yourself, “But what do all those letters mean?”

The LGBTQAI+ community is a society of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, aromantic, agender, and intersex individuals, with a “+” for those who are in the process of self discovery, or have more complex identities. Everyone else is invited to come and support positive coexistence as allies.

The meetings provide a safe space on campus to be oneself and discuss topics about finding positivity. Every attendee is invited to introduce themselves and state their preferred pronouns.

Senior and President of the LGBTQAI+ and Allies Club Jill Stevenson said, “We are not scary, we like to feed people, and we are everywhere. We are not weird, we are just people. My goal is eventually not to have an active club. My ultimate goal is to have an office or building dedicated to queer students like most other liberal arts colleges do.”

Stevenson inherited the club from Cynthia Stoddard and brought the club ‘above ground’ with the help of key administration, faculty, and the school’s registrar Whitney Larsen.

“Activism has it’s place and I personally support LGBTQAI+ activism. For this group, however, I just want it to be a society where people feel supported, heard, and that they are a valued part of the entire campus community,” said Larsen.

Another goal of the new club is to change the way people see homosexuality and and put a stop to assumptions.

“I truly believe that most people are good at heart and most reactions to the LGBTQ people/issues come from a place of ignorance rather than malice. When I hear something offensive or wrong, I try to use it as an opportunity to educate the other party. It almost always has a positive result,” said Larsen.

Whitney Larsen grew up in Lexington and had a few close members of her family that were members of the LGBTQAI+ community. “Lexington is fairly tolerant so I never really questioned LGBTQ rights or legitimacy,” Larsen said. “They were always a given. Even so, I did witness occasional cruelty and unfair treatment of people I loved and was committed to stopping that whenever I could.”

Both Stevenson and Larsen encourage everyone, no matter their location, to participate in the community.

According to the Suicide Awareness Voice of Education, members of the LGBTQAI+ community are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Members of the community that are not accepted by families or loved ones are eight times more likely to attempt suicide. The CDC and World Health Organization have stated that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Groups like Southern Virginia’s LGBTQAI+ Allies Club work to fight this trend. “This society has saved lives,” Larsen said. “I know that sounds dramatic, but it is true. Suicide is a very real issue for the LGBTQAI community at large, but especially among the LDS population. I’ve been moved by the stories that were shared in these meetings or with me personally over the years. It isn’t just nice to know that you are wanted and valued — it is essential. Being part of this society as LGBTQAI or as an ally helps provide those reassurances.”

The club’s invitation for people to participate isn’t meant as simply one more way to pass the time. Instead, it’s an invitation to be active in helping create an environment of safety, support, and love on Southern Virginia’s campus for a group of people that has historically been marginalized throughout the world.

With sights set on the future of the LGBTQAI+ and Allies Club, Jill Stevenson is motivated by words often shared by her father: “You can do anything that you set your mind to as long as you have Father in Heaven on your side.”