The Wilde Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity held an open house for all members of the University of Maine community to socialize with friends and faculty members this past week. The event was held as part of UMaine’s Pride Week and was designed to showcase the organization’s offerings to the university community.
The open house provided students with the opportunity to meet Wilde Stein members and learn about the organization. The event is held twice a year, once during Coming Out Week in the fall and Pride Week in the spring.
The organization’s name is derived from Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, two note worthy characters in the history of sexuality.
The group was created in 1973 and is one of the nation’s oldest college GLBT community associations, according to President Shannon Perro. It is the oldest GLBT community association in Maine.
“Wilde Stein is where people can converse in a safe, open and accepting environment,” Perro said. “People can discuss issues that are uncomfortable in other environments.”
Wilde Stein is both an advocacy and social organization. Perro said the goal is not only to provide GLBT students with a safe place to discuss issues, but also to raise awareness about GLBT issues facing students both now and after college.
“Those in the community are aware of most [GLBT] issues. Ask anyone walking down the street to define gay, lesbian or bisexual, and they can do it. Ask them about transgender, and they get confused,” Perro said. “That’s our goal, to educate, but not just on GLBT issues.”
Some in the GLBT community also need to be more informed of issues they do not often think about, according to Perro. Wilde Stein provides an environment where people can safely discuss them. Wilde Stein meetings are confidential, and open to all students.
“It can be quite personal,” Perro said.
Deans of Students Robert Dana and Associate Dean for Students Angel Loredo attended Thursday’s open house.
“It is great that Wilde Stein has continued to grow,” Loredo said. “I think it is great – the work they’ve been doing.”
“Wilde Stein offers different avenues for the GLBT and allied student at UMaine. It’s a support network, educational organization and advocacy group,” GLBT Liaison to the Deans of Students Matthew Small said. “Some members are interested in all three, and some are only interested in some of them.”
Students who are coming out may seek a place to express themselves that is free from judgment, according to Small.
“For some students, a basic support system is all they’re looking for,” he said.
The GLBT Allies Council advises senior administrators, through the Deans of Students, about the concerns and needs of the GLBT community at UMaine. The council promotes education and awareness activities for the campus community and advocates for the inclusion of relevant material and approaches in academic curriculums. The council also advises the office of Equal Opportunity regarding issues of discrimination and harassment of GLBT community members, including faculty and staff.
Students who see “Safe Zone” stickers on office doors throughout campus are aware that GLBT issues can be addressed with faculty and staff in those offices. The safe zone sticker is a sign that GLBT students are a valued part of the diversity on campus.
The Rainbow Resource Center, located on the ground floor of Memorial Union provides resources for GLBT students and straight allies.
“People need to have a place where others understand what they’re going through, and the support of straight allies is integral to that process,” Small said.