Out List offers more visibility


Out List as of 10/12/17

When English Instructor Liz Green shared her poem “Apples and Oranges” — about her experience as a bisexual in Oklahoma — with her students this semester, one reached out her to expressing thanks for her openness.

“I had a student email me saying ‘thank you so much, by the way me too and I’ve never told anyone this before’ and so that was really moving,” said Green adding, “I’ve had students in my classrooms that are just coming out” and having a visibly queer and out teacher has made students feel safe to talk to her.

In an email sent out to faculty and staff, English and LGBTQ Studies Instructor Jeff Matthews explained that the Los Medanos College LGBTQ faculty and staff have taken the next step to increasing that visibility and moving beyond stereotypes and discrimination by creating an Out List.

This list not only acts as a reminder to the campus that LGBTQ people exist and are a part of everyday life, but as a representation of the LGBTQ community on campus.

He also explained in the email that through the Out List, students will have the opportunity to know and connect with people who can relate and welcome them with open arms.

“I want to help make sure that other people have that sense of freedom that feels like you belong to and are a part of a community,” said one faculty member on the list, English Professor Morgan Lynn. “Especially in time when people can feel attacked or feel ostracized — I think that it’s even more important for all of us to come together and make sure that we’re really showing up for other people.”

14 of LMC’s very own faculty and staff — including former LMC student and Contra Costa Community College Ward IV Governing Board Trustee Gary Walker-Roberts — proudly reside on the list.

The Out List grew out of last semester’s “Big Gay Mixer” — a social event for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff — at which the faculty came up with the idea after seeing the success of the lists at other colleges.

Matthews and English Instructor Joellen Hiltbrand, who have been members of the LMC campus for more than 20 years, explained that having this visible presence of LGBTQ individuals is a change from what it was like back when they started.

“I’ve been on this campus for 21 years, full-time since ’98, and you know there’s been a lot of work about being aware of populations on campus and their kind of visibility and access to other resources and over and over again,” said Hiltbrand. “The queer community is kind of over in this corner kind of not connected to anything and not visible.”

And like Lynn and other faculty members on the list, Hiltbrand wants to ensure students who might feel isolate that they’re not alone and have people on this campus they can reach out to.

“I have had so many students over the decades that I’ve been here who have told me some really heartbreaking stories, just literally not knowing that it’s possible to be a queer person and to be happy, productive, in a family, successful, professional, educated,” Hiltbrand said adding, “the queer population is in every population we can imagine, we represent everybody.”

Matthews echoed similar sentiments about the minimal visibility of LGBTQ individuals on the LMC campus in his 25 years of teaching here.

When he first started, Matthews made it a point to come out and be a “one man gay and lesbian resource center” because there was no out gay faculty at LMC 25 years ago.

“Most of them were in the closet and the few that were kind of out didn’t want to make that part of their school life, they wanted to keep it separate,” Matthews said. “Where as I was coming from SF State and had a background in queer activism and was used to being out my entire life, in my classes and stuff. So when I came here, that was kind of shocking to me to realize that.”

History instructor Josh Bearden said that growing up in Alabama and then attending Samford University, a socially conservative Baptist college, for his undergraduate years, there was no LGBTQ visibility present.

He explained that two decades ago, when he attended the school, and even now, faculty members could get fired for being out, so not having that representation as he was attending school played a “huge role” in wanting to be a part of the Out List.

“I think it’s very important for young people, especially our students who are late teens early twenties [because they’re] going through several life transitions,” Bearden said.

He added that this is the age when young people start to realize and understand their identities, which can be a lot on top of trying to figure out college for the first time.

“There can be a lot of upheaval around coming to terms with that identity — it could be family doesn’t accept you, community doesn’t accept you, friends turn their backs on you or something like that,” Bearden said. “We thought it was important for [students] to know that LMC is a place they can have acceptance — I’m not necessarily worried about losing my job the way that people back where I went to school would be.”

Created with LGBTQ students in mind, the Out List and that visibility these faculty and staff members are providing also serve as a way to express to those not in the community that there is in fact an LGBTQ presence on the LMC campus.

“I think it’s just a sense of saying yes, we’re here don’t ignore us, don’t pretend we don’t exist,” Matthews said adding, “we’re your teachers, your librarians, we’re your deans and we’re in your life everywhere. That’s a very simple but powerful message, the fact that we are here. “