Diversity Dialogue: “Opposition to LGBTQ Rights: Red States”


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The Office of Student Life and Diversity hosted a dialogue on Thursday where the audience could ask panelists questions concerning LGBTQ+ rights in Missouri.

The panelists consisted of four local advocates for the LGBTQ+ community: Mandi Kowalski, a representative for “Promo,” an organization that advocates for those who identify as non-hetero; Steve McLemore, a consultant for Wells Fargo, who shared his experiences as a gay man in business; Amy Estlund, an assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences; and Ariel Page, a junior undergraduate student at Lindenwood.

The event begun with the host, Christopher Miofsky, the assistant director of student involvement, introducing each panelist.

They touched on many subjects in regards to the LGBTQ+ community in Missouri, such as how it is legal to deny someone services, loans or housing because of sexual orientation alone.

Kowalski talked about a bill that was brought forth to legislation that would ban “conversion therapy.”

“It’s a practice that some mental health professionals and spiritual leaders create to convert someone to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, or both,” Kowalski said.

Kowalski stated that there are multiple in St. Charles County. She also said that it will most likely not be passed, but is more of a “conversation starter,” to be more aware of the harmful effects of conversion therapy, such as depression, body dysphoria and even suicide.

Page talked about her issues with conversion therapy, “What helps perpetuate this is … parents will take their children to mental health professionals, and legitimately think there is something wrong with their kid, and a professional will say ‘I think I can fix your kid,’ which legitimizes the practice.”

McLemore then talked about his struggle with coming to St. Louis and buying a house. He said that he experienced culture shock coming from Austin, Texas, a very diverse and cultured city, to St. Louis.

“I’ve been here about five years, and the culture shock is just starting to subside,” McLemore said. “It’s very different here.” 

He has been married for five years, but Missouri would not recognize it until 2015. This caused trouble when he and his husband wanted to buy their home together. They insisted he and his husband sign a legally binding affidavit stating that they are not married, even though they are.

Audience member Kelly Moyich said, “I wonder how many people sign that document saying that they’re not married. I can’t imagine how many people are swearing that they are not married, when they actually are.”

McLemore replied, “Most.”

The forum also touched on sexual education in high school and at universities and unanimously agreed that it needs improvement.

Lindenwood University’s Office of Student Life and Diversity wants everyone to feel accepted.

Check out a list of their upcoming events here.