Tyler Bradley is a third year student at Saginaw Valley State University studying graphic design and Spanish. He is the A&E Section Editor of The Valley Vanguard and Social Activities Coordinator of Living Proud, the on-campus affinity group.
1. How big of an LGBT presence is there at Saginaw Valley?
While the LGBT presence at Saginaw Valley might be a bit smaller than at other Universities, our presence is definitely growing. We do have one LGBT registered student organization that probably has one of the highest attendances out of most basic organizations on campus. The University has started Ally Training sessions, which more than 100 have completed. Speakers from the University of Michigan’s Spectrum program come in and do a several hour program that allow the allies to provide a welcoming safe space for those who are dealing with LGBT-related issues.
A student is also in the works of creating a new LGBT R.S.O. called Speaking Out Loud at SVSU which will focus more on social activism and more education programs. Up until recently, there was an LGBT literature course offered at the University.
2. What type of events do you have?
Our registered student organization, Living Proud holds quite a few events throughout the year. We do bonding get togethers so that those who aren’t on the whole social activist side of things can get to know people like them and just have fun.
We traditionally do the program “How Good is Your Gaydar?” in which the audience asks a series of volunteer panelists questions to determine their sexuality. We try to get a blend of people with varying identifying sexualities. The audience is asked if we think the panelist is straight or gay, and at the end the panelists reveal their sexuality. It’s really interesting when we get pansexuals and asexuals. It shows how we often stereotype people based on basic characteristics and also how we tend to think on a dichotomous spectrum of gay and straight and seem to forget bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality.
We organize a group to participate in an AIDS Walk. We donate money to the cause that is raised during our annual drag show.
Our charity drag show is entering its sixth year. Word on the street is that we have one of the best college drag shows hosted at a University. In the past couple years, we have about $1,500 to give to AIDS Walk and we reach about 400 people in attendance. We are starting talk about having two drag shows each year because of the event’s growth and success.
This year we have started reaching out to other charities too. We had our own Relay for Life team in which we sold duct tape roses to raise money for curing cancer.
We also usually organize a group of students to go to MBLGTACC, which is the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally Collegiate Conference that’s filled with tons of LGBT-themed programming and LGBTQA leaders from other college campuses.
3. How is being out and active in college different than your high school experience?
In high school, I never really felt like I could have that bonding with another person who felt the same way about issues like these. Several friends could never really understand that about me and would disapprove of it. I was the only one in the school that identified as something other than heterosexual in the whole school. It was very disheartening!
In fact, I had attempted to contact some old high school teachers some months ago about putting on an LGBT program, because although they might not be out about their identities, LGBT people certainly exist in the school. They deserve to hear that it’s okay. We’ve had programs for annorexia, alcohol, drugs, and texting and driving, but nothing was ever mentioned about LGBT issues in our school unless it was forcibly brought up by a student.
As for college, I view being out in a whole new way. While you’re constantly meeting new people, you’re constantly going through a coming out process with each individual person. So it’s hard to say if you are out or not.
I don’t have a problem talking about my sexuality when it comes to peers and professors at SVSU. There are still people who are hesitant when they hear it or have traditional views of marriage between a man and a woman, but it’s a lot more welcoming than back at my high school. I look at it now as an educational opportunity. I don’t really associate myself with being gay, straight or bisexual because I might be comfortable dating someone who is intersexed or transgender. I try to just back from from those labels, because there are always assumptions about how one must act if they’re gay, pansexual, etc. I find that if a characteristic about me has no direct effect on someone else, I question why something like my sexuality should be of any importance on them. If discussion topics do come around sexuality, I will share my experiences.
4. Are other students supportive of the LGBT students?
This is a little harder of a question. While we do have a growing ally population at the University, there will always be a select number of students who aren’t supportive.
My freshman year, I had a roommate who was against the idea of homosexuality. After he had gotten to know me, I shared with him my experience. He was completely okay with it. In fact, he said his views on it had changed a lot because of meeting me.
However, I can’t say that this is always the case. We do get occasional vandalism to our Living Proud posters and sometimes some religious emails asking God to save us. I feel college is a little more understanding about LGBT students than an everyday community, but there is always still support needed to be gained.
5. Do you see people who are coming out while at college, and what do you do to help them?
I’ve seen a lot of people at college struggle with finding an identity and coming out at college. Most importantly, I try to tell them not to rush it. Someone once told me that it’s all about being comfortable with ambiguity. It’s perfectly okay that they may not be able to accept a word to describe their sexual behaviors. College is about discovering more about yourself. If it’s something they think is an important part of them, I’d suggest possibly coming out, but only if they are comfortable in doing so. If you’re not comfortable with it, don’t think you have to do it. And I just try to be available if they have any questions, concerns or just need someone to talk to. You don’t know if coming out is going to be an easy process for them or something that will lead to rejection and thoughts of suicide. You have to treat each case individually, but always be willing to support the person.
A couple weeks ago, a professor had talked to me and had thanked me for writing newspaper articles about LGBT events. He had told me he is in the process of coming out himself, and is very appreciative for all that I’ve done. Knowing things like that are helping support not only students, but professors too is a very rewarding feeling.