Local student awarded LGBT scholarship

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2006-06-22T09:00:00-04:00 June 22nd, 2006|News|

EAST LANSING – When Lauren Beach received word that she had won the 2006 Point Scholarship, which is granted to students marginalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, she jumped up and down in tears.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” said Beach, a Michigan State University student.
After filling out a 12-page online application, writing three essays, obtaining three letters of recommendation and sending them off with an official transcript, Beach never imagined she’d be selected as one of the 30 national winners.
“I applied because I really had a lot of financial need for this upcoming semester,” she said. “I honestly never ever thought I’d be selected. When I went through the selection committee, they asked me why I didn’t apply earlier.”
Beach, 22, will graduate in May 2007 with degrees in both Social Relations and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.
“I’ve always had a passion for genetics and science as well as literary arts and writing,” she said.
Originally, her intention was to study only social science, but after listening to peers defend their prejudices with “hard science,” Beach decided to pursue interdisciplinary education.
“I know a lot of people in my classes who were talking about this nature versus nurture debate … Some people were saying you’re born this way, other people [said] it’s genetically determined, other people were like, ‘No, it’s a choice,'” she said.
Even Beach’s parents didn’t understand her bisexuality. When she told them at age 20, during her sophomore year in college, her father already knew and her mom didn’t understand.
“She thinks if you date a woman and you’re a woman then you’re a lesbian and that’s it,” she said. “There’s no middle ground for her.”
Beach, who lives in her own apartment in East Lansing, had to explain to her father that being attracted to both genders doesn’t mean she won’t get married.
“He thought that people who were bisexual could never be satisfied with just one relationship because you never would be dating both genders,” she said.
Although her parents were the last to know in what she calls a “constant process,” she began coming out at 14 and during her freshman year in college she focused on working against the stigma of bisexuality.
“It was really important to me that those identities be visible,” she said. “I don’t feel you can move forward in the progressive movement if you are doing the same thing your critics are doing, which is excluding people based on certain unacceptable identities.”
Beach is the chair of the Gender Identity Task Force at MSU, which aims to add gender identity to the anti-discrimination policy at her school.
Although she works three jobs to fund school, Beach allows time for playing the piano, which she’s done since age 4, and writing poetry.
“My mother has played the piano for over 50 years and she’s also a trained vocalist, she was my inspiration for playing music,” she said.
Beach is also a jazz singer. “I’ve always had a deep interested in jazz music,” she said.
While Beach hopes to work as a science-educated attorney, in the meantime she’ll intern at a government agency in Geneva, Switzerland, where she’ll deal with HIV issues.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.