The Latin Sorority of Lambda Theta Alpha hosted "PULSE", an hour-long presentation designed to give a new perspective to its attendees about the LGBTQ+ community and its importance, at the Miron Student Center (MSC) Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The students who came to this presentation were given various facts and information via a well-detailed slideshow presented by Jeislynn Ozuna, a junior majoring in biology and the active social chairperson for the sorority.
Since Wednesday was nationally recognized as National Coming Out Day, the women of Lambda Theta Alpha took it as the perfect opportunity to give the open-minded students information and a new mindset about the people of a different sexual orientation that walk among them in Kean University's student body. However, the event was not dedicated to just be a lecture, but an open debate and listening session.
Before the debates began, Ozuna transitioned her PowerPoint presentation to a YouTube link that took the audience to a music video performed by popular hip-hop artist Logic, titled "1-800-273-8255". A video that has garnered over millions of views since its release earlier this year. Its concept surrounded the reality of bullying and the mental health issues that severely impact those of a different sexual orientation.
Not a dry eye was evident in the room, as the sentiment of the video was soon discussed with members of the small crowd bringing personal stories and examples related to the video into the conversation.
After the facilitator of the presentation ended her PowerPoint, multiple questions were pitched to the audience about their knowledge of those within the LGBTQ community, social issues that affect them, their safety due to events such as the PULSE Nightclub shooting during the summer of 2016, and the steps for change people must take in order to create tolerance and acceptance around the world for the men, women and children in this community.
Certain topics, such as the acceptance of transgender men and women into the workforce, was actively discussed by the group, and statistics about the discrimination these men and women feel due to them truly trying to be who they are.
"The fact is that transgender employees can be fired due to their gender identity, and even though we all go to school to get jobs, to be able to be fired because of how you identify is very eye opening," said Ozuna during her presentation. "These are really horrible numbers that I want everyone to keep in their heads when it comes to things like this.
Soon after the statistics were given, students argued with and informed their peers over the ways that the LGBTQ+ population is affected due to the current political climate, their own cultural experiences in whether they accept those people into their lives, and why the issues of homophobia arise in the world around them.
From the half-hour talk, students took with them a multitude of wisdom and understanding.
"This event was really important to us. This is not just about gay rights, but about racial rights and with all of the political problems going on, I feel like us, as college students and student leaders, it is our job to show the students on campus that we are here and are trying to make a change," said Keani Esparra, senior public relations major and Chapter Orientation Advisor for her sorority.
"I personally loved the standing part because it gave people the opportunity to share their stories and their beliefs and it was something where everyone got the chance to share their opinions and not get shut down for it," Esparra said.
The attendees were then asked to participate in an interactive portion of the presentation, which dealt with putting oneself in the shoes of someone who was gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. They were tasked with applying themselves to a place and whether they felt safe there, and examples included familiar places such as a party on campus grounds, to different territories of a conservative church or corporate workplace.
The students were given three places to stand in accordance to the location given: a "safe" sign, an "unsafe" sign and an "unsure" sign. About 10 locations were given, and students proceeded to walk to the sign that indicated how safe they would feel. More open discussion could be heard here, as students explained their reasoning as to why a member of the LGBTQ+ community would either feel embraced or threatened at a given place.
After the last portion of this revealing event, the members of Lambda Theta Alpha thanked their audience for coming to their event. The attending students responded with a mass applause and to cap it all off, a group photograph was taken in front of a large gay pride flag projected on the PowerPoint that was shown.
"I thought that tonight was really needed for us as community, especially as Kean students," said Esparra. "This was a good outlet for students to discuss issues like this, especially when it comes to LGBT rights. Our students need to be reminded and spoken to because, how are we supposed to have a safe space and have people be okay with opening up and becoming the kind of culture that allows all of this to happen if we do not start here?"
Keani Esparra also spoke on how this event proved as influential to the students that attended.
"I think that, us, as an organization and us as a school, we are trying our best to show unity and that it is okay to be who you are. There is no one telling you that you have to be a certain type of way, because here, we are open, we are accepting of who you are as a person and we want people to know that as well as continue to spread love."
To find out more about the sorority hosting this event, visit Lambda Theta Alpha's official Cougar Link page for news on their future events and their organization's history.