The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Association is launching a new initiative to include the straight allies in its activities.
Club leadership chose to launch this new initiative, after receiving feedback that the club lacked clear roles for straight allies. “Last year a number of our straight friends approached us and said, ‘I’d love to show my support, but I don’t know how at HBS’,” said club co-president Chris Pierce (OD). “They really wanted to become more involved, and we really wanted them to join in as well.”
“When I arrived at HBS I wanted to join the LGBTSA, but I wasn’t sure if that would welcomed once I realized that there were no other straight members,” said Meredith Hamilton [OI], now part of the club leadership. “It was important to me that my presence did not diminish the fact that the club was a safe space for club members who preferred to not discuss their sexuality in the broader HBS community.” Straight allies such as Hamilton were concerned that there might be particular situations in which LGBT students might desire the opportunity to share experiences and seek support in an exclusively LGBT group. “It is a tough balancing act for the club to play,” acknowledged Pierce. “We want to create a haven for people to be open about their sexuality, and not all people are comfortable with everyone knowing they are gay. The name itself [LGBT SA] can even seem to imply ‘No straights allowed.’ So in that sense we have not made formal efforts to bring in straight allies to the club up until now. However, we’ve come to believe that, given their interest and given the greater influence straight allies can have, we really should open up the club.”
National Coming Out Day was the first public step after the club decided to launch this initiative. “At National Coming Out Day, our message was meant to be more inclusive of straight supporters,” said Matt Dunn, National Coming Out Day organizer. “For example, the club sign-up sheet explicitly invited straight allies to join. The response was much bigger than we expected and has really made this whole thing start to take off.”
“One of our first actions will be to create two separate communication mechanisms for the group,” said club co-president Evan Horowitz [OA]. “We already use a blind-carbon-copy listserv for the club, but we’re going to take it a step further and create two listservs: one for all club members, including straight allies, and one for the smaller group of LGBT-identifying club members.” This distinction will allow the club to keep straight allies aware of activities, while allowing for continued confidentiality (and reducing the potential for spam).
Upcoming events are also being planned around this new initiative. “From an education perspective, we would ideally host panel events, roundtable discussions and perhaps even a speaker series,” said Hamilton. “That will allow straight allies to really get involved in any discussions and social initiatives with the LGBTSA.” However, awareness is only one facet of this new initiative. “We also hope to have social events that are public and open to the broader HBS community. We have corporate sponsors that are quite excited by the idea of helping to host a social event that is explicitly inclusive of the wider HBS community. So it’s not just about education; it’s also having fun with the LGBT community.”
The initiative is still in its early phases, and Hamilton indicated that the club’s willingness to involve new people continues. “Currently, we’re trying to think of a specific name to demonstrate the inclusion of a group of allies and for the initiative itself,” she said. “We currently are thinking of calling it ‘Section Q’-a section that would be inclusive of everyone at HBS-but we’re open to other ideas, as well.”