William & Mary students volunteer with Campus Pride for Winter Alternative Break Weekend

On a cold weekend in January, 10 members of the Tribe loaded into a van and set off for Charlotte to spend several days learning and volunteering with Campus Pride as an Alternative Break.  While everyone had different reasons for wanting to go on an Alternative Break, we all wanted to learn more about the LGBTQ community.

On our first morning, we met Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride’s Executive Director and Founder. With a bright smile and a plethora of information, Shane told us how Campus Pride was founded, spoke about its programs, and informed us of the struggles LGBTQ students face on college campuses.

After lunch, we met with Roberta Dunn, a transgender activist from the Charlotte area.  Roberta shared her inspiring story of self-discovery and how she began living her truth.  Her soft-spoken grandmotherly demeanor belied a will of iron.  Roberta was honestly the first person we’d met who genuinely didn’t care about what others thought of her.  Her motto on life? Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!

For the rest of our first day we began projects that would support Campus Pride’s programs.  One large project that we undertook was creating a database of all the equity and Title IX officers at California community colleges. We were surprised at how hard it was to find contact information for these important resources and would encourage schools to make this information more easily accessible.

On our second day, we worked out of the Foundations of the Carolinas building in downtown Charlotte. We enjoyed being able to walk to the office in the morning and see the bustle of the city at 9 am.  In the morning, we continued our project work: some of us finished the equity project while others started a new project centered on religious colleges with Title IX exemptions. Shane taught us a little about Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. However, colleges can apply for a religious exemption by arguing that applying Title IX would be contradictory to the religious beliefs of the organization. We sought to see if the school had exemptions and get a better feel for how accepting the campus might be based on their website and news articles. We were disheartened to discover that schools often buried their exemptions or discriminatory policies deep within their code of conduct or student handbook.

After lunch, we met with Brian Roach from Ally Bank to learn about how companies support the LGBTQ community.  In addition to learning that we all could be making a lot more interest on our savings accounts, we heard about Ally’s employee resource groups (ERGs), specifically about the Pride Ally group.  This group also partners with community-based LGBTQ organizations like Campus Pride and overall seeks to be an active part of the community by attending events like Charlotte’s Pride Parade and speaking with students on Alternative Breaks.

On our last day, we filmed our own “love notes” to LGBTQ youth which will be up on the web at CampusPride.org/lovenote.  Go check them out! LGBTQ youth face so many challenges today, why not send them a little love?

Overall, our three days at Campus Pride were eye opening.  We learned so much about LGBTQ issues on campus and got to meet with incredible activists like Roberta and corporate allies like Brian.  No one will forget the lessons we learned or the fun we had!

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