With its broad range of majors and diverse student population, Montclair State University is dedicated to making every student feel welcome and accepted, most certainly including students who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning). With resources on campus for these students, as well as an especially supportive student and faculty population, Montclair State is a campus where students can feel free to express their sexuality without discrimination.
Montclair State ranked in Campus Pride Index’s 2017 Best of the Best Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities, in large part due to its LGBTQ+ Center. Located in the basement of the Student Center and founded in 2009, the center works to not only support the university’s LGBT population, but also provides resources and education for allies and those wanting to learn more.
Ebony Jackson, the Assistant Director of Office and Social Justice and Diversity, says the LGBTQ+ Center’s main goal is to support and educate the LGBT community.
“It’s important to be able to provide that support and education about the community so all our students can thrive and succeed and graduate. It all boils down to support for students,” Jackson said.
Students fall all across the spectrum of sexuality. Montclair State is home to not only gay, lesbian and bisexual students, but to many trans, nonbinary and asexual students as well.
Sam Carliner is a journalism student in his senior year at Montclair State who identifies as asexual.
“Any community in the LGBT+ Community, there’s at least something that the LGBTQ+ Center does to acknowledge those groups and to provide support for those groups,” Carliner said. “The environment that comes from having very supporting resources on campus definitely has had an impact.”
“The environment that comes from having a very supporting resources on campus definitely has had an impact” – Sam Carliner, a journalism senior at Montclair State who identifies as asexual
While the LGBT community certainly has each other’s backs at Montclair State, the vast majority of students are not only accepting, but welcoming. A perfect example of this would be the recent counter-protests that took place on campus.
A preacher who identified himself as John Stanly came to campus this past October, yielding signs that read “Those who reject the Lord Jesus do so because of sin, not true science or evidence” and “Macroevolution and abiogenesis are fake science. Why reject God as creator?”
The preacher quickly drew a crowd of students, many watching in disbelief, including Jay Stuto, who sat in silent protest as Stanly recorded the demonstration on his iPhone. Since Montclair State is a public campus, Stanly couldn’t be forced to leave, but many students and allies took to counter-protesting his message.
Rayne Eloy Trujillo lay shirtless on the ground, directly in front of Stanly, and refused to get up or put his shirt back on until the preacher left. The students in the surrounding crowd cheered him on, encouraging him and shouting words of disapproval at Stanly.
“I knew I had to do something,” said Trujillo. “He needs to know that he, and people like him, aren’t welcome here.”
This wasn’t the first time religious protestors have come to campus, but Montclair State students consistently band together to counter-protest their message of hate. Last march, a group called the Bible Believers came to campus to form a similar protest, but once again the Red Hawks combatting the hate speech being spewed at them by chanting, playing instruments to drown out the preaching and heckling the pastors.
Not all of the counter-protestors were members of the LGBT community, but they all united to show their support and alliance to the students who could be offended. This underscores just how welcoming and supportive Montclair State is to all students.
While Montclair State us especially accepting and encouraging of all sexualities, the LGBT community has faced considerable hardships throughout history. In order to fully understand the significance of the university’s acceptance, a look back at the history of LGBT rights in America would be beneficial. Starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and concluding with the legalization of same sex marriage in 2016, the timeline (below) touches upon some of the major historic moments for the LGBTQ community.
Rebecca Tash is a linguistic senior at Montclair State who identifies as queer.
“I’ve never once felt like I didn’t belong or would be made fun of or harassed for being queer,” Tash said. “I think it’s even amazing that every year they hang the rainbow flag up in the quad and have a whole week dedicated to the LGBTQ community!”
Robert O’Connor is a journalism student completing his final semester at Montclair State University. He works as the Entertainment Editor of The Montclarion, Montclair State’s weekly newspaper, in addition to his journalism internship at Sloppy Vinyl. Working for the Montclarion, Robert would cover events on campus, ranging from theatrical performances to different organizations’ activities, as well as film and television reviews. He was also responsible for proofreading, editing and uploading other writers’ work. In addition to journalism, Robert writes screenplays. His most recent short screenplay, “Out with a Bang” was recently produced. Thanks to Montclair State, Robert is proficient in field production, video editing, journalism, copy editing and screenwriting.