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Sharing the Awareness

Social justice artist and educator S. Leigh Thompson
Social justice artist and educator S. Leigh Thompson
June 15, 2011

The second annual LGBT Awareness Week kicked off with an Opening Luncheon held in Richard Harris Terrace, which was decorated in rainbow colors to reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.

LGBT Awareness Week is supported by the Student Government Association (SGA), BMCC Auxiliary Enterprise Corp., and the LGBT Awareness Week Committee.

The Opening Luncheon and schedule of events were facilitated by the Committee along with Michael Hutmaker, Dean of Student Affairs, Iris Wangapataravanich, Assistant to the Vice-President for Student Affairs, and Danny Ambrose, a Specialist in the Office of Student Affairs.

Ambrose and Hutmaker welcomed all student, faculty and staff guests to the Opening Luncheon and introduced BMCC President Antonio Pérez.

“It’s important for us as an institution to be sensitive to each other, to accept each other as individuals, and treat others the way we’d like to be treated,” said Pérez. “At BMCC, we’re a family within a family.”

Dean Hutmaker and Ambrose said one of the goals of this years’ LGBT Awareness Week was to bring in further support from the outside community.

Taking the leap

Social justice artist and educator S. Leigh Thompson was the Luncheon’s Guest Speaker.

A community organizer and Transgender activist originally from the Midwest, Thompson spoke about his struggles for acceptance in a small town, and how the 1993 tragic murder of a gay Lincoln, Nebraska resident named Brandon Teena, inspired him to be a voice for the LGBT community.

Thompson said it was important for colleges like BMCC to “take the leap in recognizing LGBT people.”

“It’s nice to see BMCC addressing issues faced by the LGBT community,” he said.

Thompson started community organization in his “very conservative” Nebraska hometown, where he also took the time to, “figure out who I was and wanted to become.”

Brandon Teena’s murder, recalled Thomspon, “provided me a soul-shaking warning, and left me both devastated and elated because it helped me find who I wanted to be in this world.”

Over the years Thompson sometimes found himself in hurtful situations; being victimized by “those who are supposed to be peers.”

He concluded his speech by thanking BMCC for hosting an LGBT Awareness Week, adding, “one thing that bonds us together as a community is how oppression is formed by the expectation of our gender. Gender is rich and complex.”

Safe Zone launches

Deborah Parker of the Women’s Resource Center distributed Safe Zone stickers and pins to guests at the Luncheon.

A new, campus-wide initiate, the Safe Zone program is aimed at promoting awareness, acceptance and addressing the needs and concerns of individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Spread the word about Safe Zone,” said Parker to the guests. “Its goal is to support to the community and create a more inclusive, safe, environment.”

Twenty BMCC faculty members and staffers are trained Safe Zone “Allies,” available to answer questions anyone may have about the program.

Throughout the week, Safe Zone information tables have been set up outside Room S343.

Other LGBT Awareness Week events include a Fashion Show, workshops, and more. For a complete listing of events, click here.


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  • LGBT committee embraces a new program called Safe Zone
  • Activist and Brooklyn resident S. Leigh Thompson speaks at Luncheon
  • Community encouraged to spread the word about awareness and Safe Zone

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