Marking the first time in recent history an ally has been chosen to lead the group, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Assembly recently elected sophomore Emily Allen as its next executive director.
“It’s a huge honor,” Allen said. “It’s a testament to the fact that you don’t have to be part of the LGBT community to be in this organization.”
Allen, who is straight, said involvement with the LGBT community began early in her life.
“My brother and my sister are both gay, so I was always very supportive,” she said.
Allen became involved with USC’s LGBT community immediately upon arriving at school, joining the Jewish Alliance for GLBTs and Straights during her first week at USC.
After serving as president of JAGS, she decided she was ready for a leadership position within the GLBTA but worried about the issues she might face as an ally.
“I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously for leading the organization because they might not think I’m directly affected,” Allen said. “But I am affected. It’s a huge part of my family and a huge part of my best friends’ lives.”
Allen said she thinks anyone who takes a slight interest in gay rights, whether gay marriage or the right to adopt, has a place at the GLBTA.
“People view GLBTA as an exclusive group for those who fall under that category, but it really is for everybody who is interested in showing their support,” she said.
As executive director, Allen said she hopes to implement an official ally training program to improve collaboration between GLBTA and the Greek community and work more closely with member organizations.
She also hopes to host speakers who are gay or lesbian but also work in an industry or have some kind of experience that would appeal to a larger student audience.
Joshua Morris, incoming assistant director of the GLBTA, said he thinks having an ally in the top position will only help the GLBTA.
“[Allen’s] making the definition of queer broader. She’s putting a different face on GLBTA,” he said.
Morris said he thinks having an ally at the helm will help the group increase partnerships with other student organizations and improve the visibility of the LGBT community.
Vincent Vigil, director for the LGBT Resource Center, echoed this sentiment.
“It’s very significant because, as an ally, some populations on campus would take her advocacy for the community a little more seriously than someone who is of the community,” Vigil said.
In previous years, Vigil said, the group did not do a good job of including allies in LGBT events. Since 2000, however, the GLBTA has worked to be very ally inclusive. Both Allen and Morris are hoping to continue to improve that aspect of the GLBTA during the upcoming year.
“Before, allies just didn’t know that they could be involved,” said Genevieve Flores, the current executive director of GLBTA. “[Allen] will show that this is something everyone can be involved in.”
Flores said that she hopes Allen continues the work that was done this year, especially the outreach to the Greek community.
Though he thinks having an ally lead the GLBTA will be good for the group, Vigil noted that there are some disadvantages, and that Allen will face unique obstacles.
“The challenge will be to continue to identify and understand the experiences of LGBT students on this campus,” he said. “She’s a person of privilege being an ally. She needs to comprehend what it means to be an LGBT student, and the challenge will be to continually think about that.”
Allen said she’s ready for the challenge and hopes to show the USC community that the GLBTA has something to offer everyone.
“It’s not about if you think that you’re a part of the letters,” she said. “People might think that, because they’re not gay, going to the GLBTA events might not be fun. It’s about showing support and learning something new.”