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LGBTQ+ in the Bible Belt: My Friend Blake #WontBeErased

As an upperclassman in the music department, each year I have received a “little” in the marching band. This year I was paired with my new friend, Blake Buehler, by other members of the band. Blake is a Freshman, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, majoring in Music Composition. Although I’m a senior and Blake is a freshman, he has taught me so much. I interviewed Blake to gain perspective on what it’s like being LGBTQ+ at Furman and also how recent actions taken by our government may affect him.   


What do you identify as? What pronouns do you prefer?

Straight transgender male, he/him/his


Have you told your family yet? How was going home for fall break?

Yes, I actually came out to my family over fall break. They reacted very negatively, but not the worst. It definitely made things awkward, though.


How did you feel about being LGBTQ+ and coming to the “Bible Belt”?

At first, I was very worried that I would be unable to come out due to being in the “Bible Belt”, but Furman has made me feel included and safe— and off campus, I pass [as cisgender] for the most part and no one really questions me.


Do you feel that Furman has done a good job of engaging diversity on campus by recognizing LGBTQ+ students?

Yes, but there is definitely more that could be done. FPA (Furman Pride Association) is a wonderful organization, but it does not get as much attention as other organizations on campus do. Changing my name and gender marker in Furman’s system was way easier than I expected it to be, and they have been more than willing to help me succeed.


As a freshman, were you notified of resources on campus such as the “Safe Zone Project” or “EROS”?

No, all I know about is SDC (Student Diversity Council) and FPA.


Do you feel that Furman students have been welcoming and accepting?

Yes!!! I was considering not coming out yet in college, but the second I stepped on campus and met people, I knew I would be safe and accepted here.


As freshmen, many Furman students think about joining fraternities or sororities. What’s your take on Greek Life? Would you feel comfortable walking into a frat house at Furman?

It is definitely not as extreme as other schools, but it is still kind of intimidating. I am considering rushing a fraternity, as I am excited to be part of a community of brothers who support each other and do work that is beneficial to the self and the community. I think I would feel just fine going to a frat house.


What’s one thing you want other students on Furman’s campus to know about being LGBTQ+?

Be sensitive to others, and if you make a mistake, it’s okay! Just correct it and move on.


Do you have any advice for other members of the LGBTQ+ community at Furman?

Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! Furman has tons of resources if you ask for them.


What do you think about the Trump administration limiting the gender definition?

I think it is insensitive to many groups of people, and it is fundamentally unconstitutional. This proposition not only invalidates binary trans people, but also non-gender conforming individuals, and also members of sub-cultures such as “two-spirit” individuals in the Native American culture who identify outside the standard western cultural gender definitions.


If Trump’s legal definition were to pass, what would that mean for you & the trans community?

This would prevent me and all other trans people from changing our legal gender marker on all forms of identification, for starters. It would also further inhibit our rights in healthcare, housing, and employment, just to name a few things that are already limited. It could also cause health insurance companies to stop covering medical transitional procedures, and if it goes to the extreme, the Trump administration could make medically transitioning obsolete in America. Socially, it would cause further ostracism of the trans community, especially in more conservative regions.


In what ways can we practice better allyship?

Above all, just be kind and respectful. Also, normalizing sharing pronouns when meeting someone new or in a large social setting is hugely helpful for those who may not “pass” as well and prefer to tell others their pronouns to avoid being misgendered. And, if someone misgenders a trans person you know, respectfully correcting them is greatly appreciated by most trans people, but not all. And educating yourself on trans issues is a good way to try to understand some of what we have to go through and can give you guidance on how to support your trans peers.


Redefining gender would be a huge step back for LGBTQ+ rights. By doing this, our government would be making a statement that civil rights are not a right for all Americans. Immediate action from the American people is imperative to securing rights for everyone in our country. As Furman students, we can act to make our campus an environment where everyone feels accepted and included. We must demand change and come together as allies of the LGBTQ+ community so that transgender people #WontBeErased.

With over 10% of students identifying as LGBTQ and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community growing every year, it’s important that we take time to understand the perspective of all of our peers. Personally, I feel so grateful to have met Blake this year. I think we can all make note of his advice; being more sensitive to others will help us move forward.


To find out more information on accommodations and organizations for LGBTQ+ students on campus visit https://www.furman.edu/campus-life/diversity-at-furman/gender-and-sexuality/ or email Allyson Brown the Director of Multicultural Recruitment at allyson.brown@furman.edu

For more specific information on transgender accommodations visit http://www2.furman.edu/studentlife/inclusive-communities/student-resources/Pages/Transgender-Student-and-Ally-Resources.aspx

Maddie is a senior at Furman University majoring in music on the Pre-PA track. After completing a gap year she hopes to attend PA school and work in women’s health. When she’s not studying science or playing the flute in marching band, you can usually find her snuggling her dog named Ruepert with a glass of cabernet watching reality TV shows.
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