HRC Equality Tour Winds Through Kentucky
September 22, 2011 by Deena Fidas, Deputy Director, Workplace Project
Post by Liz Cooper, Workplace Project Coordinator, on behalf of Deena Fidas, Workplace Project Deputy Director.
HRC’s bus tour took us to the Bluegrass state this week, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here in Lexington and then Louisville before the bus makes its stop in DC for HRC’s National Dinner.
My trip began bright and early (for college students), at the University of Kentucky’s Student Center in Lexington. Thanks to the partnership with UK’s new LGBT Task Force and the great leadership of their chair, Eric Morrow and Dr. Steven Oliver, the open house for the bus was a great success. Waves of students gathered to share their stories, sign our postcards to end school bullying and to learn more about what resources HRC can offer to create a more welcoming environment for the LGBT and allied campus community. One student shared a particularly poignant story of how the pressures of being closeted in his hometown led him to leave home for school and come to UK where he has become more involved with the LGBT student group. He said he still does not feel 100 percent comfortable being out, but was thrilled to see our very visible presence of the bus.
I am here with my Foundation colleagues Ellen Kahn, Joanna Blotner, Tricia Benson and Candace Gingrich-Jones to share our resources and guides on encouraging safe spaces at home, at school, at work, and in faith communities.
With swarms of students and faculty soaking up the bus’s showcase of Foundation programs outside, inside Candace Gingrich-Jones and I presented on Campus Equality: “The Case for Creating Safer Spaces for LGBT Students, Faculty and Staff.” The presentation was the first of its kind held here and it drew a crowd of primarily faculty, staff and some students of the UK campus in the Worsham Theatre. I had the opportunity to share the risks and costs of a closeted campus and workplace, drawing on the business case for inclusion from the Workplace Project’s Corporate Equality Index, and Degrees of Equality research. Much of the Q&A discussion focused on issues of visibility for our community and how the campus can address issues such as its relatively low ranking on the Princeton Review's list of LGBT friendly campuses.
The crowd was appreciative of our work, giving me confidence that these current and future members of the workforce will find the value in bringing their whole selves to work and promoting LGBT inclusion.