Messages from the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning) community are visible all over campus, from posters advertising the National Equality March to signs for movie nights and (CQ)2 meetings, to Queer on the Can.
Since its inception, the LGBTQ community has always taken an active role toward making our campus more egalitarian. For years they have hosted annual events such as Drag Ball, National Coming Out Day and a Matthew Shepherd Vigil for hate crime awareness.
But it was in the 06-07 academic year that students began pushing for an LGBTQ resource center and formal director.
The campus was struggling with issues of targeted homophobia: a few students were regularly harassed with the word “f–” written on the white boards outside their doors, and brought the issue to SGA.
In Spring 2007, Connecticut College opened its LGBTQ resource center on the first floor of Burdick beneath a rainbow flag, and Dr. Jennifer Manion became the director and operator of the center.
This resource center is something that many colleges, including some in the NESCAC league, lack or have only very recently established. Its presence has allowed the LGBTQ community to become an even more active presence on campus.
The community leads one of Conn’s largest clubs, Spectrum, which fights homophobia and advocates for equal rights, as well as (CQ)2 (Connecticut College Queer and Questioning), a group of students that meets to talk about gender identity and sexuality and helps those adjusting to their new identities. The center also hosts the Campaign for Gender Identity Awareness, which developed last year to address gender and transgender issues.
Spectrum has about thirty active members, and works regularly with the other LGBTQ clubs, Unity House and the Women’s Center to promote events.
According to junior Chad Stewart, “There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t host some kind of event.”
As the college is beginning to publicize its emphasis on LGBTQ consciousness, the question that arises is how accepting the campus really is towards the LGBTQ community.
Have we changed?
For the most part, students in Spectrum were comfortable with the climate towards LGBTQ students on campus.
“The climate is pretty much accepting. Homophobia is strongly discouraged on campus,” said sophomore Brenner Green. “I’m on two varsity sports teams here, and they’ve been really supportive. Obviously there are going to be people who are homophobic, but from what I hear, this campus has progressed a lot over the past few years.”
Others worry that the issues still linger. Said an openly gay junior, “On any Saturday night, you can hear a lot of hate-speech. It’s subtle, and it goes unnoticed by most of the campus. But for the most part, however, Conn is a liberal microcosm, and it’s still more LGBTQ friendly than the rest of the world.”
Active Spectrum members throw not only on campus events, but also promote off campus political activism. Last year they had letter writing campaigns, attended protests in Connecticut for marriage equality and stood outside of ballot places on voting day.
During the Presidential Election, members of the LGBTQ community stood outside of New London High School advocating “No” for question one: refusing a Constitutional Convention to amend the constitution against same-sex marriage.
This weekend, a group of twenty students are attending the National Equality March in Washington, DC, which is expected to be the largest gay rights march in history. And yet while LGBTQ members are actively involved, they worry that the general student body is too passive.
Sophomore ally Megan Kelley feels that more involvement is needed from the student body as a whole to improve the atmosphere on campus.
“Here’s one thing we could improve on: campus-wide involvement,” she said. “I feel like we’re a generally accepting campus, especially considering how things have progressed in recent years. But there’s still an unspoken hesitation, or awkwardness towards the LGBTQ community – our events are still mostly attended by the LGBTQ community and allies.”
Members of the LGBTQ community urge students to actively help improve the campus climate by attending Spectrum Meetings or stopping by the resource center anytime.
Additional reporting by Lilah Raptopoulos.
Photo by Kelsey Cohen.