While LGBTQ+ services have been present in past years, this year is shaping up to be one of the most involved the department has been. We’re only two and a half months into the new school year and already we have seen an increase of activities, especially over the past two weeks.
According to Calvin Ryan (‘22), one of the students who has helped transform the department, “Before I got involved, it wasn’t super active. There weren’t many events going on, nobody knew we had a rainbow room or that we had an LGBTQ+ student services. It was really dormant and we didn’t really do a lot.” Apart from coming out day, not very much happened during the rest of the year. It was Ryan’s goal, along with Coordinator for Diversity and Civic Engagement as well as LGBTQ+ Services’ Annesha Edwards-Carter to make sure that there were more opportunities for members of the community and allies to show their support and participate in fun activities.
This year, there are many activities for students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike to get involved. One of these activities was Coming Out Day, which took place on October 11 from 3-4 p.m.. A table was set up on the campus center patio where students could come and sign a banner with an assortment of colored sharpies, and write things such as “You are valid,” and “You are awesome just the way you are!” on it. The banner now hangs outside the mail room hallway in the campus center. Students could also collect stickers that showed rainbow flags and enthusiastic sayings showcasing pride and support. In addition to the banner and stickers, students could make buttons showing pride for their gender identity or sexuality. Zee Malamud, ’22, who attended Coming Out Day, said: “It was extremely heartwarming to see so many people coming to show their support for the community.”
One of the goals that the LGBTQ+ services department is to raise awareness about the struggles that members of the LGBTQ+ community have faced in past years and still face today. One of the main influencers in this goal, and part of the reason why the LGBTQ+ community has gained so much support is The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving support to people in the LGBTQ+ community and offering help and resources to the members of this community who are considering suicide.
The project was named after a short film the organization called “Trevor” about a 13 year old boy who is gay and has to face bullies at school and even attempts to kill himself. After Coming Out Day, students were invited to watch the film. Even though the events and characters were fictional, the trials Trevor had to face and the message of the film is one that all LGBTQ+ youth can identify with.
Edwards-Carter said about the film and discussion that followed: “The Trevor Project film was also really great because though this was filmed in 1998 it is still relevant in 2019. So, many people of the LGBTQ+ community have felt ostracized, alone and not supported.” Ryan, the fellow of the Rainbow Room gave some stats on the LGBTQ+ community and mental health. Laurie Scherer from the wellness center also led a dialogue about recognizing those who may be exhibiting signs or thoughts about suicide.
In addition to support, activism and discussion are other crucial parts of the life of a member of the LGBTQ+ community. As young people, the department of LGBTQ+ services felt it only necessary to hold a conversational luncheon to discuss the events and actions of the Trump administration. According to Ryan, “There were videos shown to highlight the promises Trump made during his campaign back in 2015, promises like making workplace discrimination less common for gay and trans and bisexual people and then we discussed what we thought of that and what was said versus what’s happened.”
With all the uncertainty about the future for LGBTQ+ people due to the homophobic and transphobic attitudes of the current administration, a discussion of thoughts and feelings surrounding these attitudes was an important activity for people who belong to the communities marginalized by Trump and his administration. Edwards-Carter felt that “one of the main take-aways from the Queer Lunch Dialogue was that we all have agency. Sometimes, as an individual you can feel that you can’t make a difference but even just one person can help make a change.”
There are plans for all different kinds of activities within LBGTQ+ services, including Trans Day of Remembrance and game nights in the Rainbow Room. Ryan and Edwards hope to keep the department going so that all students who are a part of the community know that they are accepted and supported.