OPINION: International students should align themselves with LGBTQ groups

Vedant Kulkarni, junior in business administration, is an international student. (John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

The word “ally” is powerful. It describes someone who stands by you through thick and thin, someone who fights for you because they know it is the right thing to do. An ally is someone who cares so deeply about you that they will ensure you’re not harmed because of how you choose to identify.

The LGBTQ and international student communities are two groups that are typically not thought of together or mentioned in the same sentence. I believe it is the time for international student groups to openly ally with LGBTQ causes and support our LGBTQ friends through events and activities.

I was first introduced to the LGBTQ community through Indian television talk show “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth Alone Triumphs), which deals with social causes. I did not find it weird at all. I come from a relatively open-minded family culture; I accepted the existence of the LGBTQ community immediately. However, that was not the case with most of my friends back home and some friends here.

I remember when one of my friends, who is also an international student at Kansas State, said to me, “OMG! That’s so gay!” That statement made me furious and my relationship with them was never the same.

It was disheartening to see my friend have such negative opinions about the LGBTQ community. On the contrary, all of my friends who identify as LGBTQ community members have vocally supported international students at K-State and across America. They are curious to learn about different cultures, and they attend many international student events.

International students should now also support LGBTQ individuals on our campuses and align ourselves with causes that push for diversity and inclusion.

Straight international students should use resources that are available to us online as well as on campus to understand what it means to be LGBTQ and how we could become better allies: reach out to the LGBT Resource Center on campus, attend Sexuality and Gender Alliance meetings, have a conversation with someone who identifies as LGBTQ. There are multiple peer articles and journals available online to learn more about gender and sexuality. One can watch Ted Talks about gender and sexuality studies.

Even the way we speak can make us better allies if we don’t use homophobic phrases and use gender neutral pronouns.

Most significantly, we should use our events to promote awareness about the LGBTQ community. We should use our stage to promote diversity and equity. Many cultures encourage acceptance, tolerance and diversity. Let us find the inclusivity of our cultures and ensure that those who need our help receive it.

If we know someone who is going through a journey of self-exploration, then we should stick by them as they discover themselves and support them at every moment. We should conduct or attend events that promote a gay-straight alliance. We should approach our lawmakers to ensure the safety of our non-straight friends. These small steps can have a significant impact on an individual’s life and positively change an entire community and our society.

I understand most of us come from places where talking about being LGBTQ is still taboo, if not a crime. This is precisely why we should reach out to the LGBTQ community. Using the knowledge we gain here, we should try to expand the mindsets of people back home, thereby making our home countries progressive and open-minded places.

The LGBTQ community has been an outspoken supporter of immigrant rights and its members are the first ones to condemn xenophobia, something that international students face regularly. Taking that as inspiration, international students should raise their voices and stand up to homophobia not just on university campuses, but all around the world.

The world is changing. We are becoming more accepting and tolerant, making people feel more comfortable in their identity. We have to be progressive enough to accept them for who they are and not force them to change themselves.

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a junior in management information systems and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.