By Mary-Lyn Buckley
College is a time for exploration and emotional growth, but for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning students, going back home for the holidays can be difficult in the midst of finding themselves.
Stars from the TV show “Finding Prince Charming,” Brandon Kneefel and Nick Barbati, will host a forum this Thursday, Dec. 8 in the Sweigart auditorium with the goal of advancing change and supporting students who are anxious about upcoming conversations with parents and family members.
The program is co-sponsored by the offices of Campus Activities and Service Learning and the Student Entertainment Council, and is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.
The duo will aim to teach students how to properly navigate their sexual lives and journeys to self-discovery.
Nick Barbati was inspired to facilitate the program after attending a previous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning forum hosted by the Student Government Association’s Vice President John Modica earlier this month.
“I noticed just how many students were struggling with communicating their feelings,” Barbati said. “This discussion will empower our students to communicate, both more effectively and honestly, with their families and friends when they go home for the holidays. We hope to help them navigate the waters of tough discussions in a way that will better help their friends and families understand their recent life experiences and feelings.”
Barbati met Kneefel during his time on “Finding Prince Charming” and learned that Kneefel was an accomplished spiritual counselor; together, they hope to combine their experiences to create an impact.
Modica emphasized that the beauty of hosting the program is benefiting people of all sexualities.
The event will include an “Ask the Suitors” segment, where students and staff can ask questions to both Barbati and Kneefel.
The two plan to include tips on expressing emotions and thoughts with friends and family members.
Modica stated his aspiration for the program overall.
“I hope it continues an important conversation this campus needs to have about supporting students as they develop their identities,” he said. “Your race, gender, sex, sexuality or faith is a source of empowerment, not shame. We need to encourage students to see the power in the diverse communities we have on this campus.”
Barbati shared his hope that people walk away from this program feeling empowered, as well as feeling truly a part of a larger, supportive family.
“This is a program to help ourselves and then help each other,” he said. “Together, we are gay America.”
Printed in the 12/7/16 edition.