A president with pride

Devon Sherrell knows he is one of the lucky ones when it comes to his “story.” The junior political science student said he knew from a very young age that he was gay, so when he came out his friends and family in high school, he was relieved that no one seemed to have a problem.

“They were all really supportive,” Sherrell says. “But I know that’s always not the case.”

Sherrell decided when he got to college he wanted to be involved in an organization that would help support those who may not have as easy a time with their sexuality. What he found with the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Alliance at the University of South Carolina, was much more than that.  After moving his way through the student organization, Sherrell is now president of the organization dedicated to social services and advocacy for students, whatever their sexual orientation.

The driven president has come far in his short time as the organizations leader, making this year’s LGBT History Month one of the most successful and exciting UofSC has ever seen. Earlier in October, Sherrell and his team of dedicated members organized their National Coming Out Day event, where nearly 300 people walked through the handmade doorframe to declare their sexual preference as whatever they would like.

“These events are what drive our organization,” Sherrell says. “We need these to increase visibility and support from the entire community. They are not only entertaining, but they educate people.”

The BGLSA’s goal is not just to educate the straight community, but the LGBT community, too.

“At events like these we try to post any information we can,” he says “We’ve included posters with rates of depression, facts about sexual health. If just one person learns something from one of these, we’ve done our job. We just want to keep them informed so they can be as supportive as possible.”

With many recent LGBT-related events throughout South Carolina, including the removal of funds from several college LGBT programs, Sherrell said the support is more crucial now than ever.

Sherrell says that aside from support from students, what they do would not be possible without the support from UofSC staff and organizations around the state. BGLSA has worked closely S.C. Pride, the university’s Counseling Center, individual university advisers and S.C. Equality.

“It’s really a partnership between us and these organizations,” Sherrell says. “They support us and help us when we need it, and we provide volunteers, information, or anything else.”

Sherrell makes sure not to forget about any individual in UofSC's LGBT community. Despite his busy schedule, he said he always makes time if someone needs to talk to him about a problem or concern. Each board member of the organization is Safe Zone and Suicide Prevention certified, creating a safe environment for students.

“I personally think we are one of the most, if not the most diverse organization on campus,” Sherrell says.  “We really want to create a comfortable place for each person. We’re not just an advocacy group, but really a family.”

After graduation Sherrell hopes to go to law school to work as a civil rights attorney. But even after his time at Carolina, he knows he will stay involved with the LGBT community.

“BGLSA has sparked passion for me,” he says. “It has taught me to be an advocate and make a difference in the community. I just can’t see myself not being involved with it.”

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