OPEN gives students a place to call home

It’s all about breaking down barriers and seeking to bring people together for the student group OPEN (Open-Minded Positive Equality Non-Discriminative).

The organization is a GLBT-friendly (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) group which believes that everyone should have a home or a family.

“I think the main thing to get across is we’re not just a gay and lesbian group,” said Laura Keenan, co-president of OPEN. “Orientation doesn’t matter. When I first started coming to meetings, it made me feel better about being on campus.”

The group, which meets at 5 p.m. on Thursdays in the Crane Room of the Memorial Union, has had its ups and downs. This semester, attendance at meetings has been lower than in the past owing in large part to conflicting class schedules, but members keep in frequent contact via e-mail.

“This is a GLBT-friendly group, but it doesn’t mean you have to be one of those letters to be a member,” said Resa Boydston, a  senior sociology major and secretary-treasurer of OPEN. “We have several straight ‘allies’ that have been members.”

The group sponsors a wide variety of activities on campus and off designed to bring together people of all orientations together in open-minded understanding. They have helped with gallery productions, hosted panel discussions on hate crimes, same-sex marriage and transgender issues. OPEN’s on-campus family  includes the Sociology/Anthropology Club and  the Social Justice League, and is open to all orientations.

“These past couple of years we’ve done free AIDS testing in concert with the AIDS Project,” said Boydston.

In the spring, OPEN plans to host a discussion with Faisal Alam, a gay Pakistani-American and founder of the Al-Fatiha Foundation, a group dedicated to the advancement of gays, lesbians and transgenders in the Muslim community. The group is also making plans to host a chili cook-off fundraiser that will benefit several different organizations.

“People can get up and on it when it comes to their chili. And everybody likes to eat,” said  Keenan.

OPEN will host a mini-seminar at 4 p.m., Nov. 10, in  the Mabee Library’s iRead Lounge. It is meant to bring awareness to domestic violenc issues in the GLBT community. The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, as well as the Eliminating Racism Empowering Women group from the YWCA, will be on hand to take questions regarding this largely-ignored issue.

“We are for anyone that doesn’t feel like they can fit in with one of the other groups on campus and wants to be part of a group,” said Keenan.