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UNG club sponsors event to support LGBT community

POSTED: April 12, 2014 12:27 a.m.
NAT GURLEY/The Times

Photographer Jinx Nix, left, waits for people to sign up for the University of North Georgia Spectrum Club's "No H8 Photo Shoot" on the 19th annual national Day of Silence. Nix said her idea came from photographer Adam Bouska. Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley started the silent photo protest in response to the passage of California's anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in 2008, according to the NOH8 Campaign website. More information is at http://www.noh8campaign.com/article/about.

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Students at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus gathered Friday to silently support members of the school’s LGBT community.

“Today is the nationally recognized Day of Silence,” said event organizer Cherry Bone. “It is a day to commemorate those who are or have been silenced by discrimination, ignorance, hate, family rejection or even suicide because they were made to feel belittled or dehumanized.”

Participants abstained from speaking throughout the day while some, who described themselves as “speaking for the silent,” engaged passers-by. Students were invited to discuss gay rights, sign a declaration of support and read educational pamphlets.

In addition, the school’s Spectrum Club, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support and advocacy group that put on the event, held a “No H8” photo shoot, in which participants had their photos taken with duct tape over their mouths and “No H8” painted on their cheeks. The shoot was part of the national campaign of the same name that protested California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state.

“It just shows that UNG has a lot of diversity,” said photographer Jinx Nix. “We want this school to be a safe place for all of them, where they don’t feel like second-class people.”

UNG freshman Joshua Gomez, who participated in the photo op, said it is important for students to feel they can be themselves without repercussions.

“It’s important because everyone deserves to speak their mind and express themselves in whatever way they decide to do so,” he said. “Certain things don’t necessarily get the chance to be talked about, so not many people know about what sort (of) things people who (are) gay or just different in general go through on a regular basis.

“It just helps people to understand each other, and that is the best way to do anything really.”

Creating a school environment where everyone feels safe is one of the primary goals of the Spectrum Club, which just held a “Safe Zone” training session with the Safe Schools Coalition in an attempt to promote understanding and acceptance among students. The dangers of hostility at school and home is a subject Bone is familiar with.

“I grew up in Southeast Georgia in an extremely conservative county and in a Christian household,” he said. “I was bullied since the third grade. People called me things that I didn’t understand like “gay,” and I didn’t understand why that was a bad thing.

“So I did what I could to try and cover it up because I was afraid of how people would act towards me and I didn’t want the bullying to get worse.”

A troubled home life kept Bone from telling his family members he was gay. Because of the stress, he slipped into depression and attempted suicide four different times between the sixth and ninth grades.

“I thought it would be much better if I was gone than for (my parents) to find out what I was and who I was,” he said.

In his high school, students were prohibited from forming Gay-Straight Alliances or other advocacy groups, Bone said, which prompted him to become active in similar clubs after he moved to Gainesville to attend college. Bone plans to return to his hometown after he graduates this semester, and he said he hopes he can help give LGBT youth a voice.

“I will be taking resources back with me to do what I can to get a voice for queer youth, and really let people know that we’re there, we can’t be ignored and we won’t be considered second-class citizens,” he said.

Members of the Spectrum Club hope to organize more awareness events, such as an annual drag show in October, later this year.



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