BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — It was standing-room only at the Student Union Multipurpose Room at California State University, Bakersfield as students, faculty and visitors turned out for what was billed as an "ally rally."
The focus was on how students, staff, faculty and the community can be effective allies for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.
"To have someone understand you makes you feel supported," said bisexual student Ashlianna Summerford.
A panel consisting of educators and community members fielded questions that ranged from gay marriage, to religious intolerance of gays and lesbians, to coming out of the closet.
"If you are in a faith community that is excluding you or hateful to you, then I would encourage you to find another faith community that is loving and accepting," said Pastor Karen Pugh of Wesley United Methodist Church.
Numerous faculty and staff at CSUB have become allies of gay students by attending an orientation and workshop and then placing a sign at their door or desk with the words "An Ally" to let others know they are supportive of gay students.
"I have been supporting gay rights for as long as I've been at Cal State," said teacher-librarian Christy Gavin.
Gavin recalled past instances where materials posted on campus billboards by gay-lesbian clubs would often be vandalized with anti-gay slurs.
"There would be these horrific sayings on the wall, I mean it was just God awful!" said Gavin.
Despite the challenges faced everywhere by gay students, some said they try to educate those who judge them because of their sexual orientation.
"Don't give up, just keep your head up high," said freshman Julius Ryan.