With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, couples throughout campus —both straight and LGBT —will celebrate romance, chocolate and love with each other.
For Dalani Rainwater and her girlfriend Tri Sanders, they’ll commemorate the day with a movie.
The pair have been dating since May 2012 and live together in Bemis Lawrence Hall. They both work together at Best Buy, Bowling Green Parks and Recreation and the National Guard.
The couple also celebrates consecutive birthdays with one another—Nov. 1 and Nov. 2—and they were born in the same hospital.
“We’re just like two best friends, basically,” Rainwater said.
Rainwater said she and Sanders went to rival high schools. Rainwater attended North Hardin High School, whereas Sanders attended John Hardin.
But instead of a potentially tragic Romeo and Juliet scenario, Sanders said everyone back home was very accepting of them as a couple.
“Everybody knew everybody and could be their own person,” Sanders said.
Molly Kerby, assistant professor in Diversity & Community Studies, said the university has taken strides in recent years to create a more LGBT friendly atmosphere. However, she noted that the movement to create a friendlier atmosphere on campus has lost its momentum since the mid-2000s.
Kerby has been involved with the LGBT community since the late 90s, when she served as the faculty adviser for the Diversity Coalition, now known as Student Identity Outreach.
She said the university was the first in the state to have a LGBT resource center, — housed in McCormack Hall in 2004 — but that resource center is no longer present.
“We lost ours and now we look bad,” Kerby said.
Kerby attributed this loss of footing to the national social change surrounding LGBT issues back in 2004-2005 and the transition of power in Student Affairs, who she claimed was their biggest supporter. She also said that as WKU focuses their resources and attention on pulling in more international students, other groups such as LBGT sometimes get pushed back.
“Trying to balance all that is really hard on the university to do,” Kerby said.
Despite these issues, Kerby said that there are several committees and offices working towards creating a better environment, such as the Diversity Enhancement Committee and the Campus Pride Committee.
“At least the administration is aware that we have problems and are asking questions about what those problems are,” she commented.
When it comes to facing discrimination on campus, Rainwater said the only thing they personally had faced were the “creepy church guys.” Even then, the couple said they ultimately didn’t find them to be a bother and simply ignored them.
“I just think it’s amusing sometimes to see them out there,” Sanders said.
Rainwater said that overall the campus is very welcoming, and people are really starting to come around in this day and age, regarding LGBT issues.
“This campus is already so diverse,” she said.
Kerby agreed with Rainwater’s assessment. She sees no reason to lose students because of a lack of support.
“We don’t want to lose students over things we can control,” Kerby said.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as accepting of LGBT people or couples like Rainwater and Sanders.
“I always worry about safety, and I’ve had students tell me they don’t feel safe on campus anymore,” Kerby said.
She offered the example of transgender students and the issues they may face with housing and restrooms.
She believes that the best thing the university could support would be a LGBT resource center with a permanent staff attached to it. The center would serve as a support system for students and a safe place for them to speak freely.
“I think it would drastically change things,” Kerby said.