2010 V&A Award Recipients

Congratulations to our 2010 Voice & Action Award Receipients: Stephen Lucas (Penn State University) and George Aumoithe, Jr. (Bowdoin College)!

Stephen Lucas
Penn State University
Class of 2010
Major: English & Writing
Age: 21
Home: Leechburg, PA

“It’s humbling to be given a national award for my service to the LGBTQA community, and I accept it as a charge to continue working toward equality and justice for all people. Without the inspiration of student leaders before me and the support of all those around me, my advocacy for social justice at Penn State would have been impossible. More broadly, I am proud to represent a generation of LGBTQA people compelled to continue through a hard-wrought struggle to broaden understanding of and respect for our lives as openly LGBTQA people. Our work in the future is only possible because of those who were brave enough to come (out) before us.” – Stephen Lucas

Stephen Lucas is currently a senior at Penn State University majoring in English & Writing expecting his Bachelor’s in Arts in May 2010.At , Penn State Stephen serves in a number of roles with in the queer community: as the current Community Development & Outreach Intern at the LGBT Student Resource Center; as the current President of the Rainbow Roundtable, the coalition of LGBTQA student leaders and organizations; the sole undergraduate student in the executive board of the Penn State Commission on LGBT Equity as the current Student Commission Chair; and a two-term representative in the undergraduate student government and Chairperson of its Diversity Affairs and Student Life Committee.

Campus Pride asked Stephen to share the challenges she thinks Generation Q (LGBT and Ally) will face or are currently facing in our movement to achieve fairness and equality.

What has always been true of the LGBTQ Community is that the greatest challenges are often not shared challenges but rather individual struggles. While leaders of the LGBT movement nationally and within organizations may claim that certain challenges – marriage equality, employment protections, transgender health care, HIV-AIDS – are at the top of a given list, I personally do not subscribe to such a belief.

Having worked in a verity of capacities – from president of a LGBTQA student organization to a diversity advocate in student government to an Intern at the Penn State LGBTA Student Resource Center and Intern at a national LGBT organization (The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute), I have met and talked with a variety of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and ally people, and each of us have a unique story to tell with a list of triumphs and struggles. At the LGBT SRC, I realized the importance of having LGBT-identified physical spaces for people to turn to, socialize in, and utilize for personal and interpersonal growth. As a LGBT student leader out in my classes, I have seen the effects of being an out leader when classmates and random students confide in me that they may be questioning their sexuality or gender identity, or who may want to know how to get involved. At the Victory Fund. I learned about the vitality of having openly LGBT public officials in positions of power so that the LGBT community does not only advocate but also legislates LGBT issues. For friends of mine, their greatest struggles have also been psychological and medical, related in many ways to their sexual and/or gender identity; some struggled to tell parents that they were not lesbians but rather a transgender men, while others had history with blimia, cutting or other forms of self-destructive behaviors.

Addressing and embracing all of these facets of the community and the struggles we face are essential to the viability of the greater LGBT population. Those of us able and willing to advocate for and work with the LGBT community should do so. We can help each other and ourselves if we believe we are capable to do so. AS I mentioned, it is better that we as LGBT people fight what we want rather than be complacent in discontent or frustration. Each of us will play a unique role in addressing struggles LGBT people face.

Campus Pride asked George to describe a time when he was unsuccessful at bringing about positive change and what he learned from his experience.

One of the hardest lessons I have learned as a leader was knowing when to stop and take a breath. As someone who naturally tries to maximize whatever he does, I have learned that collective agenda-setting is vital to effective leadership. There have been times in the LGBTQA community that I had developed ideas that were huge and provocative but did not always garner the same level of interest among others that I had for them. I did not want to force anything on other people that they did not feel passionate about. When I was chair of the Diversity Affairs and Student Life Committee in student government, I rarely came up with a set agenda for the semester before engaging members of the committee and students outside student government. Too often, leaders in the LGBTQA community and in student government had pressed their personal agendas to the detriment and passions of their peers.

The lessons that Stephen learned from this experience is a lesson that takes some leaders years to learn and to fully understand. We can all learn something from Stephen’s experience – knowing when to step back to lead by following can produce some of the strongest outcomes we will ever see. Though we may have the “title” does not always mean that we are the people with the great ideas. However, I role is to bring those great ideas together so we will advance as a community in the positive direction.

Recommendations — What makes Stephen a Leader?
I could never explain to anyone in words the amount of respect I have for Steve and his persistent activism on behalf of the LGBTQA community and many social justice issues. He has persevered through personally and professionally challenging moments in his life and continued his involvement in a community that is not always as welcoming as it should be. Most people probably do not know about these struggles because although we all know Steve is a big teddy bear, he make sure to not let others know these challenges. His representation of the community throughout his career at Penn State has always been just as strong and shinning as his character.  ~ Yvette Isela Lerma, Penn State Class of 2010

A faculty recommendation of Stephen wrote:
Stephen present himself with character and ambition, and he exhibits outstanding organization ability and leadership skills. Stephen’s ability to address administrators as equals is especially remarkable, especially since most students tend to take a more behind-the-scenes role with administration. Stephen also shows a fine balance between making direct contributions at a leadership level and garnering appropriate resources to support these endeavors. Stephen is well aware of the value of this gift  and continues to develop as an advocate. He is open-minded and enjoys the journey as he constantly puzzles about the roles, credentials, and paths of the professionals in an effort to strategically fit the various pieces together to guide his future planning. ~ Kim Frankenfield-Pro, J.D.

Campus Pride is so proud to be able to recognize Stephen Lucas as one of the 2010 Campus Pride National Voice & Action Leadership Award recipients.

George Aumoithe, Jr
Bowdoin College
 Class of 2011
Major: History and Africana Studies
Age: 20
Home: Fort Lauderdale, FL

“I am thrilled to receive the Campus Pride Voice & Action National Leadership Award. As our community makes significant strides in securing our rights and ensuring our livelihood, it is heartwarming to know that organizations like Campus Pride are supporting the next generation of LGBT youth. Young people who make a difference deserve to be commended for their work and I only hope that my example motivates others to take a step forward to change the world – campus by campus.” – George Aumoithe, Jr.

George Aumoithe is currently a junior at Bowdoin College double majoring in History and Africana Studies with a minor in Gay & Lesbian Studies, expecting his Bachelor’s in Arts in May 2011. In an independent study he explored postcolonial critiques of nationhood, examining how the Western concept of ‘nation’ has marginalized ‘non-Western’ GLBTIQ people. This past summer he conducted research on 1980s HIV/AIDS rhetoric and the exploitation of the disease to close down gay male bathhouses. Through his research, he hopes to use his undergraduate studies as a gateway to a Ph.D. program in history.

At Bowdoin College, George is the Student Director for the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity – organizing many events on campus. He also serves as a Residential Life First-Year Proctor – being a mentor for 14 first-year students. George co-founded and serves as the co-editor to Q-Magazine – a student-led publication that addresses GLBTQ issues on campus. Not only is George a tireless activist, he also sings in the third oldest all-male a cappella group in the nation, theMeddiebempsters, as a baritone.

George has organized impressive events around topics such as;Black Soldiers, Primary Sources, and the Whitest State in the Union – which looked at the lives of black soldiers in Maine during World War II, Proud of My Whole Self: Intersections of Identity in the LGBTIQ Community – that examined the different ways of being LGBTIQ influenced by factors of race and ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic class, region and nationality, and many other factors, as well as Gay Is NOT The New Black – which focused around the Advocate Magazine Cover that read “Gay Is The New Black.”

Campus Pride asked George to share the challenges he thinks Generation Q (LGBT and Ally) will face or are currently facing in our movement to achieve fairness and equality.

Here in Maine, we recently lost in a bruising fight for marriage equality. But while the news headlines chronicled the contentious fight between the forces for equality and the forces for disfranchisement, stories of physical violence against LGBT persons was drowned out. Less than half a month ago, Jorge Mercado, a gay Puerto Rican teenager was brutally murdered by Juan Martinez Matos. Compared to coverage of Matthew Shepherd’s murder, Mercado’s has barely pierced the loud clatter of the mainstream media. Why is it that this young man not being venerated? Why is news of this atrocious murder not being disseminated across this country? In short: where is the outrage?

Perhaps this is blatant disregard for the life of this young gay man of color or perhaps we just take for granted that LGBT folks will lose their lives to horrific violence. Whatever it is, violence against LGBT people is one of the greatest challenges – indeed threats – that our community faces in an effort to achieve our goals of justice, fairness, and equality. While we attempt to gain social acceptance through marriage, we also forget about the real-life threats that face the less privileged in our LGBT family. As long as carrying out bodily harm against LGBT persons is okay, we cannot achieve our larger goals of marriage equality and full acceptance into society. Our basic dignity as human beings must first be affirmed, protected, and defended!

For those of us who can think about our sexuality and gender in theoretical, abstract, or cerebral terms, we lose sight of the real violence that threatens LGBT people every day they walk outside, or hold hands with their partner, or even exercise their right to be heard. We can only remedy the sick strain of thinking that justifies the murder of innocent LGBT people through education and more vociferous protest. If the news media is not covering the story, then we should protest and bring this omission to their attention. In my view, the LGBT movement has a long way to go before we become as legitimate a civil rights movement that I know we can be. But first we need to truly voice all of the atrocities that are happening to us. News that Uganda is soon to pass an anti-gay bill that warrants executing homosexuals is yet another example of injustices that we as a movement need to focus on. We have been too meek and accommodating to the placations of politicians who tell us to wait a little bit longer on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or to not push the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. If we are not our own strongest advocates then no one else will be.

Through education and through getting the message out that LGBT people are not only under threat of physical terror but are actually experiencing it, we can change hearts and minds on other issues important to LGBT people. Similarly, there are other silent killers in our community – namely HIV/AIDS – that have been pushed lower on the totem pole of concerns in a drive for normalcy and marriage equality. While marriage equality is important and vital to many in our community – the people who don’t have the voice or resources to protect themselves are often the ones who hurt the most. The LGBT movement needs to think much more broadly and it needs to reach out to larger groups of people. This means networking and building alliances with various people of color communities, immigrants, women’s rights organizations, and so on, in order to create a lasting coalition for change.

Campus Pride asked George to describe a time when he was unsuccessful at bringing about positive change and what he learned from this experience.

When the second issue of Q Magazine was released, the Director of Student Life, a gay man, was appalled at what we put on the cover. The theme of the issue was “deviation,” and we showed a photo of two women in a kitchen about to engage in oral sex. The director was infuriated with our cover choice even though we thought it would be a thought-provoking and engaging artistic depiction of same-sex pleasure for students on campus to see.

While we were ultimately allowed to distribute the magazine, we worked with the director to open up a system of communication to distribute the magazine. We learned that, in terms of working with college administration, there are limits to what we can do. But if open communication from the outset is established, we will be much more successful in achieving positive change.

The lessons that George learned from this experience is a lesson that takes some leaders years to learn and to fully understand. We can all learn something from George’s experience – we can learn that communication is key! It is very okay to challenge the system, but that very system also needs to be respected at the same time.

Recommendations — What makes George a Leader?
George is both a leader and an innovator. He has dedicated his time at Bowdoin to opening up avenues for both straight and GLBTQ students to assess their role on campus and to create a welcoming environment for all students. George’s seemingly endless energy and creative insight have positioned him as a person to be regarded with respect, and someone I am proud to count among my closest friends. I cannot turn around without hearing praise for his efforts to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for GLBTQ students at Bowdoin. ~ Phoebe Sprague, Bowdoin College Class of 2011

A faculty recommendation of George wrote:
Outside the classroom, George is very well known on campus—partly because if you’ve been in a class with him, you can’t help but admire and enjoy him.  That said he is modest, humble and would be surprised to learn that other students admire him. George contributes to the campus in numerous other ways—and is, in fact, quite ubiquitous. George is immediately likeable—kind, extremely responsible, very honorable, very appreciative of the opportunities afforded him, thoughtful, energetic, interested in others, with a great sense of humor.   ~ Jill Pearlman, Lecturer in Environmental Studies

Campus Pride is so proud to be able to recognize George Aumoithe as one of the 2010 Campus Pride National Voice & Action Leadership Award recipients.