Eracer program aims to serve individuals with non-conformist gender identities

Courtney Laverdure
Staff writer

A new student organization has emerged that is erasing gender lines. The mission of Eracer is to be a confidential peer-support organization at Murray State that serves individuals with non-conformist gender identities or expressions.

Eracer surfaced as the LGBT community recognized a need for a peer-support type organization on campus for those dealing with gender identity and expression, advisor to Eracer, Jody Cofer said. The other student organization on campus that deals specifically with LGBT issues is the MSU Alliance. MSU Alliance’s mission encompasses advocacy, education and social events for the entire LGBT and ally community.

“Eracer is different in that it is not an advocacy or education organization,” Cofer said. “There will be no public programming coming out of Eracer. This group serves solely to be a confidential peer-support organization.”

In order to start Eracer on campus, the steps to form a student organization had to be fulfilled such as developing a Constitution, selecting officers and advisors and filing the necessary paperwork, Cofer said.

Joshua Adair, an assistant professor in the department of Humanities and Fine Arts, and Cofer, Vice President of Academic Affairs, volunteered to serve as co-advisors for Eracer. Both Adair and Cofer advise MSU Alliance and oversee MSU‘s Safe Zone Project.

“We wanted to see this happen and gladly offered our time and effort,” Cofer said.

After an interested student makes contact and meets with one of the Eracer student leaders or advisors, they must complete a confidentiality agreement. Participants pledge that as a condition of participation in Eracer they will keep confidential any and all personal information that they learn about other individuals that are participating.

Once the confidentiality agreement is signed, the individual is looped into the group’s next meeting. Eracer has met twice thus far. The day, time and location of the meetings are kept only among the participants as to keep with the confidential nature of the group, Cofer said.

Eracer is strictly a peer-support organization and professional counseling will not be a provided service.

“Everyone looks for people dealing with similar issues as they are and this provides a safe space for students who are, sadly, often marginalized for being who they are or expressing themselves in manners that some in society perceives to be different,” Cofer said.

As someone who has dealt with these issues for years in his own life, Cofer is thankful to see this group come together for Murray State students, he said.

“As students dealing with gender identity and expression issues at Murray State have met me over the years, they quickly approach me as someone they know deals with the same issues and are just looking for someone to talk to about it,” Cofer said. “Now, they can do this with their peers as well.”

For many years, Adair has worked closely with transgender, transsexual, and gender non-conforming students and he acknowledges how difficult life can be for them living in a society that isn’t terribly tolerant sometimes. The formation of Eracer is an important step forward in acknowledging and appreciating the multiplicity of gender expressions and in providing resources for students to start a dialogue with one another, Adair said.

Said Adair: “It’s my hope that the dialogue they create will then encourage others on campus to get involved, learn more, and spread compassion.”