By CONRAD PURSLEY
Pima Community College sign language major Cricket Engle knew he was transgender for as long as he could remember.
As he prepared to transfer into Santa Rita High School, there was no Gay-Straight Alliance to provide support during those turbulent years.
However, Engle’s friends from middle school supported him in high school, and he set a goal of joining a GSA in college.
Engle got his opportunity at PCC East Campus. When the club’s president left for West Campus, Engle stepped up to assume the top leadership role.
GSAs work to eliminate homophobia and transphobia through education. The groups fight discrimination, harassment and violence in schools.
One program Engle would like to get off the ground is a workshop for people who are just “coming out” to their families and friends.
“We want them to know they’re not alone,” Engle said.
Engle is transgender himself and knows how difficult the coming out process can be.
When his family found out he was transgender, the results were mixed. His siblings supported him, but his mother was less than enthralled. Engle was kicked out of his home for a time, and still has to tread carefully around his mother when it comes to his sexuality.
GSAs are not reserved for gay, lesbian and transgender people. Many seem to forget what the ‘S’ stands for.
“I’m straight and I’m here to support gay rights,” said PCC history major and GSA vice-presidential hopeful Megan Peterson.
Because she’s a Protestant and a Republican, Peterson might seem to be an atypical GSA member. However, she says she’s a member because of her beliefs.
“As a Protestant, you believe everyone is a child of God and should not be harassed,” she said.
However, some of her peers have bought into the stereotype that all Republicans are anti-gay.
“I’ve been harassed, called a fake, a hypocrite, by Democrats and fellow Republicans,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s journey to GSA started at Sahuaro High School when two bisexual friends could not show their affection in public without scrutiny.
“It didn’t seem fair,” Peterson said. “I could kiss my boyfriend, where they couldn’t kiss their boyfriends.”
The double standard convinced her to join GSA, Peterson said. “I guess I just feel passionate about it because I think, ‘what if it was me.’”
Engle’s plans for this semester include helping to set up GSAs in local high schools such as Santa Rita. He also wants to connect with students at all PCC campuses, including the group’s sister GSA at West Campus.
His group also hopes to hold a spring dance for March 23. Details are pending.
‘Sister’ GSA forms at West Campus
By EDWINA FRANCISCO
When Pima Community College student Mychyl Kime started a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender club at East Campus in 2009, he sought out students who wanted a group where they could feel comfortable and wouldn’t fear harassment from other students.
The East Campus organization changed its name to Gay-Straight Alliance in Spring 2010.
Kime said the East Campus group formed after a small group of friends discussed the need for a GLBT organization. When nothing happened, he decided to take action.
“I guess you could say my refusal to let something like that just sit around and not go anywhere is what founded the East Campus GLBT club,” he said.
When Kime moved to West Campus to take computer programming classes for his major, he decided to start a GSA on a new campus with fresh faces.
“I think the presence of a GSA is vital at any campus, to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students,” he said.
The West Campus GSA formed this semester, and welcomes members.
Meetings are held every Thursday from 2-3 p.m. at the West Campus Student Life Center. For additional information, call the Student Life Office at 206-6792.
During the dance, GSA plans to sell equality rings, which symbolize the wearer’s promise not to get married until gays can marry too. Currently, GSA East is the only licensed vendor of the rings in Tucson.
Engle stressed that there is no stigma in joining GSA, whether gay or straight. If anyone is interested or just curious to see what it’s all about, Engle encourages questions.
The PCC East GSA maintains a Facebook page. The group meets every Tuesday from 2-3 p.m. and on Fridays at noon in the East Campus community room.
“Don’t be shy,” Engle said. “We want to know what you think, how you feel. And we want you to know we care.”