“Inside, students can tell their story — about
friendship, breakups, coming out — without interruption or judgment. They can
explore their own ideas without interruption from an adult,” Fields said.
The presentation will
feature a lecture from the presenters as well as digital storytelling, but the
ultimate goal of the event is to continue the conversation about LGBT sexuality at UNC.
“We are hoping the presentation
will be somewhat interactive — we’ll have lecture and screen different stories,
but ultimately we want to have a conversation with the students in attendance,” Gilbert said.
This conversation, according to Fields, is the
key to addressing the changing face of LGBT culture in North Carolina and
across the nation.
“I wrote my dissertation on sexual education in
North Carolina, and in the last 15 years the conversation has really grown to
think about addressing the needs of LGBTQ families, teachers and students,” Fields said. “And as we take on that challenge our project aims to expand our
understanding of those needs and create ways to address them.”
For some students, attending UNC affords a rare
opportunity for addressing these and other issues, but it also imbues in them a
sense of responsibility.
“As a large public
university, I think it’s important to have these sorts of events that confront
large issues, such as bullying and sexuality, especially as an educational
leader,” said freshman Eric New, who plans to attend the event.
Events such as these
encourage a sense of community on campus, according to New.
“Such a large and
diverse student population hosts so many different ideas — it’s important to be
accepting because you’re accepting not strangers but friends and classmates,” New said.
sense of community is what the presentation boils down to. Instead of focusing
on bullying, the presentation focuses on the positive stories shared by LGBT teens. According to freshman Isaac Cassedy, who also plans to attend the
event, these positive stories are the ones that need to be shared.
“This kind of event
is important because hostility towards members of the LGBTQ community exists,” Cassedy said. “It’s still apparent in society. College campuses are centers for
learning and acceptance, and it’s important to introduce people to positive
stories about LGBTQ life.”
The life of an LGBT teen should not be defined by persecution for their sexuality. To Fields, “Beyond Bullying” aims to reaffirm the fact
that the life of an LGBT teen should be an ordinary and a happy one.
“We are trying to say that LGBTQ sexuality exists
sometimes in relationship to bullying but not always — and we need to identify
ways in which they are separate.”