Tag Archive | "LGBTQ"

OutCasting radio program gives voice to LGBTQ youth at MSU

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OutCasting radio program gives voice to LGBTQ youth at MSU


OutCasters at the main studio in Westchester County, New York. Courtesy of Marc Sophos.

OutCasters at the main studio in Westchester County, New York. Courtesy of Marc Sophos.

The voices of LGBTQ Spartans and straight allies can be heard on public radio stations across the country via Michigan State University’s bureau of OutCasting, a LGBTQ youth radio program created by MSU Telecommunications alumnus Marc Sophos.

In 2006, while working at WDFH, his radio station in Westchester County, New York, Sophos came up with the idea of starting OutCasting after a foundation approached him about funding a program for underrepresented constituencies.

“In public radio, there are youth programs and there is a LGBTQ program, but there is no LGBTQ youth program,” Sophos said.

The inspiration to create this kind of program was encouraged in part by Sophos’ own experience as a gay man. He wanted to offer a platform for younger people to embrace their voices and express themselves.

“I know what it was like to be closeted and not be able to express anything, not be able to talk about it,” said Sophos. “It’s a different time now than it was when I was growing up because of the Internet but still there’s a need for people to be able to speak out and to do journalism on these issues and in some cases talk about their own experiences.”

The young contributors – high school and college age – produce six to eight programs a year for public broadcast. In addition to that they also record shorter, more frequent segments online called OutCasting OffAir, which has recently covered topics like gender norms and what it means to come out today.

After organizing and leading the program at two locations in New York, Sophos got the idea to bring the program to his alma mater after a visit to campus with his husband, Doug, a couple of years ago. They were in the Student Union where Sophos remembered the LBGT Resource Center had once been located on the fourth floor. They discovered that the location had changed, but he continued his search and eventually met with the director of the Center, DeAnna Hurlbert, a big fan of public radio, according to Sophos.

“We sort of just started batting around the idea for opening an MSU bureau,” said Sophos. “From November of 2014 through last September, a lot of the groundwork was laid and we had an informational meeting in September, a year ago, and that’s when Kayl and four other people got involved.”

Kayl Black, a sophomore member of OutCasting, said that the group is in the process of reaching out to different LGBTQ organizations around campus and students to expand their reach and spread the word about what it means to be an “OutCaster.” 

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The Stonewall Society seeks change for LGBTQ students

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The Stonewall Society seeks change for LGBTQ students


The Stonewall Society is a new LGBTQ advocacy group within the James Madison College at Michigan State University. The new student organization aims to encourage change to curriculum and promote discussion within the college and across campus about LGBTQ issues.

President of The Stonewall Society Ben Schroff is a junior studying social relations and policy and comparative cultures and politics within the James Madison College. He is also pursuing minors in women’s and gender studies as well as LGBTQ and sexuality studies.

The Stonewall Society of MSU. Photo via Ben Schroff.

The Stonewall Society of MSU. Photo via Ben Schroff.

With two and a half years as a student in the James Madison College completed, Schroff is well-versed in the workings of the programs and courses offered to students. This year, he wants to challenge them and make a difference within the college for the LGBTQ community by founding The Stonewall Society.

Schroff explained that the inspiration to start the organization came from a fellow James Madison group: the W.E.B. DuBois Society, a black advocacy group. The W.E.B. DuBois Society has established their presence this semester as they continue to address issues surrounding racial climate within the James Madison College.

He said that he was “inspired by them to bring up these (LGBTQ) issues as well. Within student culture, nothing is really talked about within the academic setting … it’s sort of just like an erased experience, so I wanted to bring it up and present it to the Madison community.”

In three words, Schroff described The Stonewall Society’s mission: advocacy, action and awareness.

As an organization within the James Madison College, the group would like to “get LGBTQ issues more into the Madison classroom,” said Schroff. The intention is that by initially addressing issues within the college, they can later start a broader campuswide movement.   

The Stonewall Society Vice President Olivia Brenner, a sophomore studying social relations and policy and women’s studies with a specialization in LGBTQ and sexuality studies, said that their approach will enable them to succeed on a smaller scale before advancing to larger problems.

“Every good activist group knows that you have to start on a microlevel, because if you start with these big overarching world changing type of things, you’re never going to be able to actually get those done,” said Brenner. “But if you do a lot of little changes, that can actually have an effect on the people that you’re dealing with.”  

Maxwell Olivero, a field experience coordinator for the James Madison College, is The Stonewall Society’s faculty advisor. He believes that “it’s important to have all groups and all voices kind of represented in just about every discussion” and The Stonewall Society has the potential to achieve that for the LGBTQ community.

“I think they’ll serve a very useful role as just being a voice for inclusion, of course, with a focus on LGBTQ people, but also a focus on inclusion across the spectrum,” said Olivero.

Olivero added that according to the group’s mission statement, The Stonewall Society will likely address issues such as gender neutral housing, the preferred name policy and more. He said, “Those are issues that don’t get a whole lot of attention, particularly now in this type of climate with same-sex marriage recently being legalized … a lot of the other issues that affect LGBTQ people, in some ways are kind of being put on the back burner as marriage equality has been won already … so I think another objective of Ben and of The Stonewall Society is to kind of bring those issues back into focus and make sure they’re part of the discussion when we move forward when discussing community inclusiveness and diversity.”

The Stonewall Society will hold their first meeting in the upcoming spring semester.

“Anybody can join. We are not limiting it to anybody,” said Schroff. “We created it as a Madison-specific, but not a Madison-exclusive group. While we are focusing a lot on James Madison and taking care of stuff in Madison, we are also going to try to do stuff around campus as well, so anybody is really allowed to join. Whether you’re LGBTQ or an ally, you’re welcome.”

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Conversion Therapy: Parental right or wrong?

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Conversion Therapy: Parental right or wrong?


Many LGBTQ people come from conservative families; those who come out to these families may face the highly criticized practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a psychological practice that attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity back to its “natural” state, i.e. straight and born-gender or sex.

Opponents of conversion therapy, including the American Psychiatric Association, say that the practice is harmful to the patient. Many conservatives support conversion therapy as a way for parents to decide what is best for their child, while liberals tend to oppose it by claiming that it is damaging, due to the fact that there is no evidence that shows it works. President Obama made a statement about conversion therapy back in April of 2015.

Candles for Leelah Alcorn. Photo via Wikimedia.

Candles for Leelah Alcorn. Photo via Wikimedia.

The president called for a nationwide ban in response to the story of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transwoman from Ohio, who committed suicide after her parents refused to allow her to go through transition and instead put her in conversion therapy. This therapy causes awful side effects for the individual involved, such as depression, higher risks for STDs due to risky sexual behavior and self-hatred. In the case of Alcorn, the therapy caused depression and eventually suicide.

The White House’s official response to a petition on its website from Spokeswoman Valerie Jarrett said, “this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.” 

President Obama is specifically quoted:

“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”

Psychological studies tend to point toward the liberal side of the argument. The American Psychiatric Association opposes conversion therapy based off of these studies, which say it does not work and is harmful.

The APA made this position clear in its Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts, “The American Psychological Association encourages mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others’ sexual orientation.”  

The right given to parents that allows them to place their children into conversion therapy has been called into question for years and all of the evidence is pointing toward a ban. However, due to a conservative Congress in many states and at the national level, there is currently no headway on the petition to ban conversion therapy.

More information on conversion therapy can be found on the Human Rights Campaign website, including which states have banned the practice for minors only, such as California and Oregon. The state of Michigan has not banned the practice due to a conservative legislature. Both the House of Representatives and Senate of Michigan are controlled by the Republican Party, which does not make pro-LGBTQ issues part of their political agenda. Due to the Republican’s hold of a majority in the House and a supermajority (two-thirds of the seats) in the Senate, they can block any bill they don’t want passed. As a result, the issue of conversion therapy can be ignored.

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