Cover image by Samantha Wycoff/ Design Editor
Boasting the title of the oldest LGBT+ college campus organization in Tennessee, MT Lambda has been serving MTSU students and faculty for 28 years. Formed as a response to homophobic and derogatory articles written by a Sidelines student writer in 1988, Lambda has proven to be a bastion for any student — whether they are a member of the LGBT+ community or not — who seeks information, like-minded individuals or simply a place to talk through their issues.
Timothy Bodey, a senior psychology major, found a home working with the organization. After participating in a similar group at East Tennessee State University, Bodey quickly became involved with Lambda upon transferring to MTSU. After serving last year as the organization’s vice president, he currently is president.
“I had fun doing it, and it was a great way to make friends,” said Bodey when asked how he first became involved. “Actually, the first friend I made [at MTSU] was at Lambda.”
Another testament to the safe environment maintained by Lambda, Justin Fox, a junior double majoring in psychology and criminal justice administration who serves as the Lambda Public Relations Officer, reaffirmed Bodey’s thoughts.
“It’s been a wonderful experience really, a very accepting community that is supported well by the university,” Fox said.
Aligning with MT Lambda’s mission to be inclusive of all individuals wishing to participate in or learn more about the LGBT+ community, Bodey and the other officers make tremendous efforts to make others feel welcome by sacrificing privacy and personal information. While he prefers not to restrict himself with labels, Bodey openly shares that he is HIV positive, an illness he says many fail to learn about simply because they don’t know anyone who has it.
“I put myself out there because I want people to ask questions,” he said. “The only way any sort of myth or stigma is going to get dispelled is if people ask questions.”
Bodey’s story is just one of many that makes up the welcoming community created by Lambda. With an open-door policy, Lambda invites any student to visit room 320G in the Student Union during their office hours to discuss any issue whether it be LGBT+-related or not. Though not permitted to provide counseling or health services, Lambda officers are always willing to take whatever measures they can to help.
“During our posted office hours, if someone wants to come up here and talk about anything, you know, just life in general, stresses of school, a particular issue they’re having with a teacher or another student, anything at all, we’re here to talk to them,” said Bodey. “And if action needs to be taken, we’ll do whatever we can to facilitate it and make it easier for the student.”
Outside of their student-to-student interactions, Lambda works with MTSU faculty and administration to provide a more inclusive and thoughtful environment for students in the LGBT+ community. As laws and language regarding the LGBT+ community continuously change, Lambda has proven to be the go-to source for answering questions that may arise. The group commonly fields questions from professors and students regarding appropriate terminology and procedures.
In recent years, Lambda has also been instrumental in advancing campus policies for LGBT+ individuals. Through their efforts, the campus’ non-discrimination policy was amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of protected qualities, though both changes took several years to come to fruition. More recently, Lambda has successfully cooperated with MTSU to change the signage for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus to be more considerate and inclusive of all orientations and identities.
In regards to their interactions with the school, Bodey assured that MTSU was extremely willing to work with them. He referenced the June 12 Orlando shooting that resulted in 49 deaths and over 50 more wounded, an attack that marks the largest incident of violence against the LGBT+ community in U.S. history. The school approached Lambda shortly after and offered to help in any way they could. The biggest result of this is the first MTSU Transgender Day of Remembrance event that will take place in the Student Union Commons on Nov. 19, one day before the calendar date dedicated to memorializing those killed as a result of transphobia. The day will be on awareness to the violence and discrimination transgender people face.
Regarding discrimination issues that LGBT+ individuals experience on college campuses, Bodey was pleased to say that, to their knowledge, such cases are rare at MTSU. He mentioned the incident at the University of Tennessee that took place in early September where the campus’ Pride Center had its flag defaced and a derogatory note left behind by the vandals.
“We don’t see anything like that on this campus, which is amazing,” he said.
Going into the Fall 2016 semester, Lambda has set goals to improve relations with fellow student organizations. The aforementioned Transgender Day of Remembrance involved coordination with the MTSU Intercultural & Diversity Affairs Department, and they hope to collaborate with more groups in future events. In regards to the student body, in AN initiative to produce more informational pamphlets and host more tabling events will hopefully educate those willing to learn more about the organization.
For those who want to get involved, students and faculty are encouraged to contact Lambda at MTLambda@mtsu.edu, approach the officers during their posted office hours or attend the weekly meetings every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in room 119 of the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building. A $40 membership fee will grant members a Lambda T-shirt, voting rights in organized events and access to members-only events, but the fee is not required to be involved with the group. Both those within the LGBT+ community and allied individuals are welcome to join so long as they abide by the guidelines and objectives outlined by Lambda.
This story originally ran in the Sex Edition on September 21. To see other content from the Sex Edition, click here. The next installment of Sidelines’s Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll series will be available on campus in October.