Josh Fernandez says when dealing with LGBTQ people on Main Campus, Queer Student Union leaders should consider all spectrums of the community.
Although it seems like anti-gay, anti-American Westboro Baptist Church pulled the end-all-be-all of April fool’s jokes on the Temple community with it’s no-show, the joke was ultimately on them.
Amid a sea of more than 700 students in the vicinity of the Student Center, I was moved at the sight of non-Queer Student Union and non-Purple Circle students, faculty and community members coming together to support the two groups and the cast members of Rent and The Laramie Project.
Compassionate campus and community members sported signs reading, “God Loves Gays,” “I Seriously Doubt God Hates Fags” and other clever, hilarious and supportive messages for the WBC.
Many felt the counter-protest was either a waste of time, or that it indirectly gave the WBC power by acknowledging their presence. I think the strength and spirit of the counter-protest spoke for itself. In addition to last fall’s National Coming Out Week extravaganza, this counter-protest was proof that love and support for the LGBTQ community on campus continues to grow.
Last night, members of QSU gathered in Tuttleman Rm. 103 to vote for next year’s executive board. The group elected freshman biology major Nina Melito as president for the 2010-2011 academic year.
The first time I walked into a QSU meeting, I was intimidated. Never before had I been in a room full of so many queers, and while it felt empowering, it was also terrifying. Over time and through courage and an outgoing personality, I became an integral part of QSU, serving on the executive board and befriending a handful of LGBTQ people.
QSU, however, is not perfect. Despite a successful year with a plethora of events, the group, like other student organizations experienced a lot of melodramatics and cliquiness, ranging from the typical he-said-she-said high school drama, to drama that unfortunately presented itself in the form of power plays.
“We [QSU] cannot afford to be power hungry within our own community,” current QSU President Kate Moriarty, a senior women’s studies major, said in an e-mail. “New QSU leadership should be committed to the causes and put petty, childish and immature personal conflicts aside.”
Although I am no longer an executive board member of QSU, I am still extremely supportive of the LGBTQ community on campus. To maintain and cultivate the level of love and support shown at the WBC counter-protest, new QSU leadership needs to take Moriarty’s advice and deal with drama and other LGBTQ-related issues.
This is why, Nina Melito, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when mapping your agenda as next year’s QSU president.
Inclusion of LGBTQ People of Color
QSU, although fun and full of friendly faces, isn’t cognizant that more often than not, it’s a predominantly white organization.
“It is very important for the future leadership of QSU to be strong and committed to equality within and outside the board,” Moriarty said. “To that extent, QSU must, absolutely must, stay strong with our commitment to exploring the ‘white-ness’ of the larger LGBTQ community and how QSU can again create local, homegrown, Temple University change both within and outside the community. QSU needs to continue dialogues with other race/ethnicity-based groups to talk honestly and openly about the ways in which race and sexuality have significant influence on how we choose (or choose not) to identify.”
When I was a member of the organization, a QSU meeting with 80 in attendance would only include maybe five or six members who were not white. And while many students think the rights fought in the gay rights movement are universal, the truth is that they’re not.
While the main goal is to achieve equality, we must first achieve a collective community that acknowledges its in-group differences. LGBTQ people of color face an entirely different set of issues, as opposed to the mainstream image of gay rights most think of.
Inclusion of the “B,” the “T,” and others who aren’t gay or lesbian
As Moriarty and several Philadelphia LGBTQ activists once told me, bisexual and transgender members and their issues are often left out of the mainstream gay rights movement.
“In the last year, QSU has made and continues to make a pledge to realign those communities that are traditionally left out of gay and lesbian politics,” Moriarty said. “Our larger community has excluded transgender- and bisexual-identified individuals in many ways, and QSU needs to make a very local, home-grown effort to reversing the erasure of these communities.”
Whether for stereotypical reasons, such as questioning the legitimacy of the bisexual label, or a general lack of understanding trans issues, these typically unrepresented populations need representation and allies within the community, therefore awareness and education must be initiatied.
Last Fall, QSU worked extensively on a campaign to get thousands of signatures for a petition to support gender-neutral bathrooms, a commodity not offered to trans, genderqueer or non-traditional gender identifying individuals. The campaign, as of now, is on hiatus, something the future QSU executive board desperately needs to revive.
“QSU cannot afford to ignore these issues, and those who are considering leadership roles in QSU should ask themselves not ‘if,’ but ‘how’ they will keep the agenda of QSU aligned with underrepresented population in our community,” Moriarty said. “The upcoming President/Vice President of the Queer Student Union must be committed to these issues and will be held accountable by the general body for continuing the work toward the inclusiveness of trans, bisexual and LGBTQ identified people of color.”
And finally, dealing with any or all drama
This is an easy one: Don’t put up with it. If a member or any of your board members comes to you with a concern about drama, feeling left out, et cetera; or if you find that members of your group or board are carrying group or reputation-damaging gossip and airing it all, put it to an end.
That was a big regret of mine, that I sat back and watched the drama unfold itself, tear friendships apart and create cliques. Incoming freshman LGBTQ students will be completely turned off if major drama continues to take place.
“This coming Monday, we are having elections, and the group will be holding all candidates accountable as to their commitment and plan to keep QSU moving toward positive, progressive, all-inclusive, drama-free, trans-positive, bisexual-positive, racism-free, female-positive and group-oriented goals,” Moriarty said. “We will not ask any less of our new, upcoming leaders.”
Nor should QSU have to.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.