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HCC group forms support organization for gay students

December 28, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

After a couple of failed attempts, students at Hagerstown Community College have started Caring Acceptance Transitions into Society (CATS), a support group for gay students.

The club is open to all students at the college, said President Bev Murphy.

CATS has about 11 members.

"I think we have more straight members than gays," said Frances Cade, the club's faculty adviser.

Murphy, 31, of Hagerstown, said the club is a resource for students who wanted to "come out," a decision she said is more difficult for young people.

"You wonder what your friends are going to say, what your family's going to say, whether you're still going to have a family," Murphy said.

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The club also has planned several community service activities, Murphy said.

Cade, a senior lecturer in human services, said gay students often came to her with complaints of prejudice and feelings of isolation.

She said attempts have been made in the past to start the club, the most recent attempt being five years ago. But the club never formed due to lack of leadership and support, Cade said.

Murphy said Cade approached her about starting a club for gay students. Murphy said at first she was nervous that there would be opposition, but said school officials were open to the idea.

"If they're from this area and they want to go to college, they might be able to find friends," Murphy said.

Before the club's formation, Murphy said there were few places for gays to network in Hagerstown.

Officials from Washington County Public Schools said they were unaware of any clubs specifically for gay students.

Last year, two students at Boonsboro High School tried to form a gay-straight alliance, but decided to join another group's efforts to start a club called Free to Be, which focused on general tolerance, said Boonsboro High Principal Martin Green.

In Hagerstown, members of the gay community formed Community Triangle, a club that promotes social events, activism and awareness for gay, bisexual and transgendered people, said the Rev. Michael Hydes, a member of the club's steering committee.

Hydes is a pastor at New Light Metropolitan Community Church, which he said has been serving the gay community for the past decade.

He said the HCC club is a good idea.

"Until GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) people become visible, we'll still have a community in which the GLBT community doesn't exist, so what reason do they have to give them rights if they don't think they exist?" Hydes said.

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