In response to the recent hazing death of gay Florida A&M University (FAMU) drum major Robert Champion Jr., the school’s LGBT Pride Student Union spoke out about the lack of LGBT-inclusion on campus. In an op-ed that ran today in the Tallahassee Democrat, the student organization wrote: “FAMU is many great things. But one thing FAMU is not, is inclusive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.”
The group went on to describe how they struggled with finding a faculty advisor, the lack of resources and support LGBT students receive from the administration as well as the harassment and discrimination gay and transgender students face at FAMU:
Like any other student, Robert attended FAMU determined to learn, grow, form lasting friendships, and prepare for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, the campus does not foster a welcoming environment for us to thrive. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve had anti-gay insults hurled at us or hostile conversations that condemn us for who are and who we love. Some of us have even been excluded from student activities for being gay or transgender.
In addition to speaking out, the LGBT Student Pride Union is also taking action. They have signed the National Black Justice Coalition’s Change.org petition calling on the Department of Justice for a fair investigation of Champion’s death as a potential hate crime. Just this past weekend, the student organization called a community meeting along with Tallahassee’s Inclusive LGBTA Task Force to rally around this issue. The students are also advocating for FAMU to include sexual orientation and gender identity into the university’s discrimination policy.
GLAAD worked closely with the FAMU LGBT Student Pride Union and the Tallahassee Democrat to raise awareness around the challenges gay and transgender FAMU students face. We commend the members of the LGBT Student Pride Union for taking this courageous step and lending their voice to this issue. GLAAD also applauds the Tallahassee Democrat for elevating these stories. We encourage other media outlets to follow their strong example.