Gay-Straight Alliance Thrives in Unlikely Place
"Tolerance," is Jackie Reale’s least favorite word.
The Florida Gulf Coast University senior is on a mission to change the way people think of the word, she says, is often confused with acceptance.
"When I see it on cars, I think, ’That’s not co-exist,’" Reale said. "It’s the worst word in the world. People shouldn’t be tolerated, they should be accepted."
Reale and senior Robbie Lloyd are the co-presidents of the FGCU Gay-Straight Alliance, one of the largest registered student originations on the campus. The GSA conducts meetings for up to 150 LGBT and allied students throughout the school semesters.
Together, Reale and Lloyd are on a mission to educate people to move beyond tolerance to learn acceptance.
Acceptance is something FGCU does well. The university offers safe zone training, domestic partner benefits for employees, unisex bathrooms, and the booming GSA.
FGCU is nestled in Fort Myers, Fla., which was recently made famous for it’s men’s basketball team’s history-making run in the NCAA. While sports continue to be a hot topic at the school, equality remains a priority for the campus of nearly 15,000 students.
The Safe Zone program is an educational session, provided for free to students and faculty to promote LGBT acceptance at FGCU. Over the course of a day, an educational workshop is provided and ends with faculty members being able to provide classrooms and offices deemed a "safe zone" to students who may be struggling with gender identity or other issues.
The university also has a domestic partner health insurance stipend for employees who are part of same-sex couples.