The Outlet celebrates first anniversary

Stephanie Toone

Although The Outlet, Western’s resource center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals, was celebrating its first anniversary, the setting of McCormack Hall Room 100-B was not overflowing with balloons and streamers.

Instead, students were more focused on each other than on a big celebration. There were just a few friends, a Lifetime movie and a warm atmosphere. It seemed more like a regular day for those at The Outlet.

Heather Crawford, a coordinator for Housing and Residence Life, said she began The Outlet a year ago as an internship project while she was a graduate student.

As Crawford worked on the project, she saw its potential to raise awareness of the GLBT community.

“Look what a difference this could be making,” she said.

Since The Outlet’s creation, there has been a support system for GLBTs at Western and in the Bowling Green community. It’s become a comfortable gathering place for those in the GLBT community.

Crawford said that surveys given to students living on-campus showed that heterosexuals were more comfortable and more informed about gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders than they were a year ago.

“There’s definitely a greater awareness about the topic of sexual orientation,” she said.

Crawford said there have been 1,350 hits on the Outlet Web site. There have also been over 250 visits to the Outlet office.

The Outlet has gained recognition on the Hill and beyond. Crawford received the President’s Award for Diversity in August 2002 for her activities at The Outlet. Crawford also gave a presentation at the Southeastern Association of Housing Officers conference on how to start a center like the Outlet.

Students, like Versailles sophomore Heather Mitchell, said The Outlet has had a positive effect on Western’s campus.

“I think it’s been really effective,” Mitchell said. “In the dorm, I feel like the females are afraid of me. It’s nice to look down the hall and see people who welcome me.”

Bowling Green freshman Michael Murphy agreed.

“In high school, it was the worst thing to be gay,” he said. “Here people are able to come somewhere they wouldn’t be judged.”

Keen Hall director Heather Dykes, a staff member for The Outlet, said Western has been very supportive to The Outlet by providing office space, a phone line and a budget for resources. But she would like to see more support on the Hill.

“I’d love to see more involvement across the campus,” Dykes said.

She said she would also like the Outlet to receive more support from churches and political officials outside campus.

Murphy said that he thinks The Outlet is a great place but there should be some provisions to ensure confidentiality.

“I think it should be in a place where it’s not so noticeable where you’re going,” he said. ” I mean, if you’re a guy going past the front desk into McCormack, people pretty much know where you’re going.”

Crawford said the Outlet has come a long way since its formation. But she would like to see more heterosexuals become educated about the GLBT community and help provide support to help The Outlet continue providing a safe environment.

“When every school has a center like this, (homosexuality) will be normal,” she said.

Reach Stephanie Toone at [email protected]