By Vincent Civitillo
For students making the transition into a college environment, acceptance amongst peers can be a difficult thing to
attain. However, it can be even tougher when a student feels as though they are different because of their race, personality
or sexual orientation.
Rider F.L.A.G. (Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is an organization on campus, which according to Treasurer Gio Buscetta,
hopes to provide those in need of a friend with somewhere to turn.
"F.L.A.G. is something I hold very
important because it is a safe haven for me," he said. "To me, it is more than just a support group. It gives me a sense of
pride, a sense of belonging and a sense that Im not abnormal."
President Kyle Zack said that the organization acts as a means for students to find support in a friendly atmosphere
that they may not be able to find elsewhere.
"If youre made fun of for being black, you have a black family to go home to; if youre made fun of for being Jewish
you have a Jewish family to go home to; if youre made fun of for being gay though, you dont have any one to turn to unless
you have a gay friend," he said. "Unlike a lot of other minorities, homosexuality is not something you can physically see
in people, so you cant just see a group of people like you hanging out somewhere that you could make friends with."
According to Zack, the weekly meetings are run in a "laid back," relaxed format so that students can feel comfortable
coming to have a good time.
"Some weeks well hit on serious issues
and other times well have pizza, game and movie nights," he said. "We had a sex battle game once where I tested their knowledge
on sexually transmitted diseases and gave out condoms for points. Another time I had a coming-out story-night on National
Coming-Out Day and we painted a banner and put it up in the Student Center."
Because of the relaxed, fun atmosphere Vice President Jason Wooden said that meetings are not just open to lesbians
and gays, but to anyone.
"There are many friends of that come
because F.L.A.G. is not people who are gay sitting around talking about being gay," he said. "Were not living a lifestyle,
were living a life just like youre living a life and people are tolerant of that. Weve had meetings where the amount of friends
outnumbered the amount of out gay people in the room."
Still, throughout all the fun and games, Zack said the ultimate goal of F.L.A.G. is to provide support for students
in need, even when they may be too timid to come to a meeting in person.
"We have an e-mail address, RiderFlag@hotmail.com,
and were actually going to start a thing where people who are still closeted, and dont necessarily have someone to turn to,
can anonymously e-mail us for whatever support we can provide," he said.
However, one obstacle Rider F.L.A.G. must still overcome, according to Zack, is their lack of university funding.
"We have such a very ambitious board that would like to get so much done, but its hard to plan things because we dont
have a budget," the president said. "So its hard to say what we can and cant do, but were putting in a budget proposal for
next semester and crossing our fingers."
Zack said that included in the organizations goals for next semester is their continuing battle to rebuild their name
in the Rider community and get better recognition on campus as the resource they are.
"What brings an organization money is their membership and their presence on campus, so we want that because L.A.S.O.
(the Latin American Student Organization) and the Black Student Union have a huge presence here," he explained. "These
are minority groups for people who may not feel comfortable and need support, and I want F.L.A.G. to have the same thing."
Wooden said that in addition to just being there for other people in need, members could help their cause in many different
"Its not like pledging a fraternity, its just an organization, so we just encourage people to come to the meetings
and be involved however they feel comfortable," he said. "Whether its getting behind a table at Awareness Day, speaking in
public or even just being artistic and making a banner, you can contribute in any way that you feel you can. What you put
in is what you can take away, and the best benefit that you can get from it is friendship."