“Gay? Fine by Me” discussion celebrates sexuality

On Thursday April 19, Geneseo Pride Alliance hosted a panel discussion addressing LGBTQ issues titled, “Gay? Fine by Me” in the Alice Austin Theatre. Since the creation of Fine By Me at Duke University in 2003, the event has been held annually at hundreds of schools.

This year’s panel featured members from various parts of the Geneseo community including chemistry department faculty member Daniel Jacques, parent Amy Morgan, visiting lecturer of anthropology Denice Szafran, communicative disorders and sciences lecturer Irene Belyakov, senior Nick Becht and cofounder of The Self Made Men – an organization that serves to support the transgender male community – Noah Michael.

Jacques began the panel discussion by speaking about his experience in college as a gay student.

“I believe in family … and when it comes to being gay, that’s the community I identified and wanted to be with,” Jacques said.

Amy Morgan, mother of senior Abram Morgan, discussed how Morgan’s experiences with his family, friends and community accepting his sexuality impacted her.

“I’m so proud to be with him in a place that he’s so comfortable,” Morgan said.

Third was Szafran who discussed creating a refuge for three different boys who were thrown out by their families because of their sexual orientations.

“I have never judged and I’ve never questioned. People are people,” she said. Szafran also said that she strives to create a safe haven for her students as well.

Belyakov, faculty advisor of Pride Alliance, spoke of her experiences as a lesbian immigrant from Soviet Russia. After marrying her wife five separate times, Belyakov said she now focuses on equal rights for all in New York.

“I see that young people are struggling. They’re being bullied. They get kicked out,” she said.

Becht focused his time on encouraging the celebration of sexuality.

“Sometimes you do have to celebrate. It is important to create a more safe place,” he said. He also talked about stigmas within the LGBTQ community and encouraged people to be kinder to each other.

Michael spoke about his experience in his sophomore year of college when he realized he was a man trapped in a woman’s body. Now, he says is an advocate for education. “Education is why I’m here. It’s so important,” he said.

The event concluded with an open question-and-answer session in which the audience asked the panel about topics related to the discussion.

As attendees left at the end of the discussion, members of Pride Alliance distributed T-shirts printed with the phrase “gay? fine by me.” Some students chose to wear their shirts the following day as part of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2012 Day of Silence to end the harassment and bullying of students in the LGBTQ community.