Campus clubs unite LGBT community

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Campus clubs unite LGBT community

Ashley Goodman

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App State currently has six main LGBT-oriented clubs, all of which are dedicated to promoting inclusivity and community in broader and more specific communities. Three clubs, SAGA, TRANSaction and A-SPEC, are managed under the LGBT Center umbrella, and three more, Accessibility Council, Gay and Progressive Pedagogy and Queer People of Color are more loosely affiliated with the center.

Sexuality and Gender Alliance

The Sexuality and Gender Alliance offers a number of social and educational opportunities to students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The club hosts meetings weekly as well as a number of campus-wide events annually.

Typically, the meetings simply offer LGBT students a safe space for conversation. Sometimes this manifests in simple social opportunities like board game nights, other times with educational events, like Queer Literature Night, in which the club migrated to Foggy Pine Books for coffee and discussions about LGBT-oriented books.

“Sometimes we do informational meetings, in which we talk about the general history of LGBT people or the history of a specific group,” Vice President of Administration and sophomore game design major Alex Luckett said. “The last meeting we had was a queer literature night, where we talked about different queer literature we’ve read, literature we’ve really hated and just different ways that people did representation.”

SAGA also organizes and participates in larger social and educational events, such as annual amateur and professional drag shows. SAGA’s professional drag show will take place April 14 at Legends and will be hosted by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queen Shangela.

SAGA also recently organized its first scholarship for LGBT students, funded by money raised by club members.

“If you are in danger of not being able to pay for college because of your identity, apply,” Vice President of Community Seb Jove said. “Tell your friends to apply. This is an awesome, really worthy use of your time, and it’s something we’ve worked really hard on for a really long time.”

SAGA meets at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays in Attic Room at the Plemmons Student Union.

TRANSaction

TRANSaction offers a private, social safe space to App State students identifying as trans or questioning their gender identities.

“It’s a closed door policy where only trans and questioning students can enter, so that way it’s a space where people are similar minded and similar in identity where we can relax with people that are like us and have had similar experiences to us,” vice president and sophomore studio art major Lee Hansen said.

The club meets weekly to offer a sense of community to its members, whether through social events like field trips to Asheville or educational and charitable events, like the Trans Day of Visibility, which will take place on Friday and will educate trans people and allies about trans culture.

“Right now we’re going to make it a mainly educational event, like what is trans, how to be visible as a trans person and how to receive visible trans person with respect,” Hansen said.

The event will be preceded by a trans clothing drive on March 29. TRANSaction collected clothing donations in the weeks leading up to the event; although anyone can donate, the club asks that only trans-identifying students take clothing at the event.

Above all, Hansen said, the club is a fun, stress-free way for trans people to find a social community.

“We are a very chill and fun club to be in, and we will in no way judge anyone who comes in to be here,” Hansen said.

Because TRANSaction has a closed door policy, trans-identifying or questioning individuals interested in attending the club are encouraged to contact the LGBT center or a club executive.

A-SPEC

A-SPEC is App State’s club for students on the asexual and aromantic spectrum. The club is relatively new, having become an officially recognized club in spring 2016, and offers a social space and opportunities for advocacy to its members.

While A-SPEC offers educational opportunities, such as during Asexual Awareness Week in October, club president Becky Parsons said the club is primarily a social space.

“We do more visibility/social stuff than we do advocacy, mainly because it was originally formed as just a space for people to come and meet other ace or aro people,” Parsons said.

During meetings, members typically end up partaking in random discussions about life, Parsons said, whether about everyday struggles and thoughts or deeper concerns, like coming out to family members.

“We start the meeting with a question, but it usually devolves into tangents about different parts of people’s lives,” Parsons said. “We just vent.”

Parsons said one important opportunity offered by A-SPEC is the supportive community it fosters.

“It’s private, and it’s a really welcoming and open place to share if you want to and learn more about our community,” Parsons said. “It’s just a community building place, and I think a lot of people enjoy having a space to meet people and make friends.”

A-SPEC is a closed club to protect its members’ confidentiality, but Parsons said all are welcome to attend, regardless of identity.

“We welcome anyone, we welcome allies, we just want to know who are you are before you step into our space,” Parsons said.

Those interested in learning more about A-SPEC can contact the LGBT Center or a club executive to find more information.

Accessibility Council

The Accessibility Council, an organization endorsed by the Office of Multicultural Student Development and the Office of Disability Services, advocates for the rights and voices of App State’s disabled population.

Though the club is not strictly for LGBT students, the council has connections with multiple LGBT clubs on campus, and vice president and sophomore art and visual culture major Seb Jove said the exploration of intersectionality is integral to the club’s mission.

“Any time you talk about one identity and their experiences, you usually get a more complete, more well-rounded, more well thought-out picture when you consider intersections of identity and the way these experiences relate and correlate,” Jove said.

Accessibility Council promotes accessibility on campus through activism, discussion and educational events. The council is currently planning a disability culture event to educate the public on how to respect people with disabilities. Chayym Kornhauser, senior psychology major,  said that acknowledging disability as a facet of diversity can improve accessibility on campus.

“What we try to do is promote awareness of disability as a social identity and an aspect of diversity,” Kornhauser said. “We also try to generate awareness of accessibility and accessibility issues, whether it’s infrastructure or societal things. Inaccessibility doesn’t have to be just physical barriers, it can also be how people treat and talk to disabled people as well.”

Accessibility Council is open to everyone, regardless of ability, and meets on Mondays from 6-7 p.m. in the Bass Lake room of Plemmons Student Union.

Gay and Progressive Pedagogy

The Gay and Progressive Pedagogy club promotes activism through inclusive education. GAPP  has an emphasis on LGBT representation, but also focuses on inclusivity of all marginalized identities.

Club president and junior English secondary education major Logan Land said GAPP is intended as a space to discuss marginalized identities’ roles and representation in education. The club’s mission is to provide a safe space not only for queer and marginalized educators, but also for the marginalized students of future generations.

“We create a space of how to be inclusive and showing that ‘normal’ in a classroom doesn’t exist,” Land said. “We want to break that down and be able to have all students and teachers feel welcome in the classroom.”

Land said they helped found GAPP in November 2016, just after the election of President Donald Trump, after discussions with few other education majors and assistant professor of educational foundations Matthew Thomas-Reid, who now serves as the club’s adviser.

“We just started talking and saying, ‘We don’t have a safe space for these queer and marginalized students in the college of ed, and that’s a problem,’” Land said. “So we decided to create that space, a space where we could have dialogue about inclusive issues that we’ve been having and how we can teach that in the classroom.”

Land said they believe that in political climates such as this one, inclusive education is a form of active resistance.

GAPP is open to all, regardless of major or identity. The club meets from 6-7 p.m. every other Monday in room 229 of the Reich College of Education building.

Queer People of Color

The Queer People of Color club is one of the newer LGBT clubs on campus. This club offers a safe space for queer people of color to interact and socialize, and like TRANSaction, the club has a closed door policy to protect the privacy and security of club members.

Club president and applied engineering major Jon Spencer said the organization was started last fall, but will officially become a club this fall. For now, Spencer said, the club is mostly in the planning stages.

QPOC is intended as a safe space for queer people of color as well as a space for the community to discuss diversity and inclusivity on App’s campus.

“We would be the club that would come up with ideas about how to help App State with its diversity planning, retention rate and things like that, especially with not just people in the queer community but also people of color within that community and as a whole,” Spencer said.

Spencer said QPOC offers a unique opportunity in that it fosters a sense of solidarity among queer people of color, an especially small population on App’s campus.

“I know that with App State’s current ‘diversity,’ there’s not a lot of people of color in general, and then when you get to queer people of color, it gets smaller and smaller,” Spencer said. “I feel like starting this club lets people know that they are included in everything that they do here, and that they have a whole community of people who are just like them who will be there no matter what.”

People interested in joining QPOC can contact the LGBT Center or a club executive for more information.

Story by: Ashley Goodman, A&E Editor