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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Professor leads discussion about homophobia on college campuses

Dr. Gayle Pitman, City College Psychology professor discusses homophobia and heterosexism. Photo by || Jason Van Sandt

The phenomenon of homophobia and heterosexism in today’s society was examined Dec. 1 at the City College Cultural Awareness Center.

City College Psychology professor Gayle Pitman, who hosted the lecture, defined the hallmarks of homophobia, and discussed the adverse effects of heterosexism, or the assumption that an individual is heterosexual.

Pitman began the lecture by turning the tables and asking three heterosexual volunteers questions that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer LGBTQ students face on a regular basis, such as, “What do you think caused your heterosexuality?”  And,“Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase that you might grow out of?”

Psychology major Tighearnan Lee says he encounters homophobia every day.

“A lot of people that already know about homophobia and heterosexism came as a refresher,” said Lee, 25. “It’s kind of hard to get people that aren’t interested in it to listen to the lecture.”

The lecture, which drew a crowd of about 30, even prompted some debate among attendees as to whether or not one’s disagreement with a person’s sexuality constitutes homophobia.

Pitman emphasized the importance and prevalence of covert, or passive-aggressive, homophobia, as opposed to the more overt, riotous, sign-waving variety. While blatant acts of intolerance do their fair share of damage to the psyche, Pitman stressed the ways in which the silent anonymous disapproval of an especially cruel bathroom stall can be equally harmful.

Pitman said she feels that homophobia is a legitimate issue at City College, and feels that as a campus there is much we could be doing to resolve the inadvertent tensions that result from covert homophobia.
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City College students listen in as Dr. Gayle Pitman discusses homophobia and heterosexism. Photo by Jason Van Sandt

“We’re beginning to offer Safe Space trainings for administrators, faculty, and staff so we can all become more knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues,” Pitman said. “Homophobia on college campuses correlates significantly with academic, social, and mental health difficulties among LGBTQ students, so improving the campus climate can have a powerful impact on student success.”

There are also similar lectures in the works, said Assessment Supervisor Sherri Goldberg.

“We are currently working on a LGBT campus climate survey that we hope to get out to the campus early next semester,” said Goldberg. “It will help us get a better idea of how safe, both emotionally and physically, LGBT students and staff feel at SCC.”

Vice President of the Queer Straight Alliance Melony Ford felt that the lecture was helpful in beginning a dialogue on homophobia between students of different backgrounds.

“It’s stuff we covered in her class earlier in the semester, but to have a group discussion on it definitely made it interesting,” said Ford, 22.

And that, according to Pitman, is precisely what City College needs.

“If we’re going to address those instances of homophobia, we need to create a climate where we can have honest conversations about these forms of discrimination,” said Pitman.

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