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The Scarlet & Black

Queer Cultures Week focuses on inclusion

Queer Pride - Devon Gamble
Crispin Torres before his talk on “Negotiating Queer Politics within a Mainstream LGBT Movement” with the SRC leaders Kathryn Lasseter ’16, Scott Olson ’15 and Javon Garcia ’14.
Photo by Devon Gamble

This year, the various groups under the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC)—Spectrum, Queer People of Color (QPOC), Transgender Advocacy Group, Feminist Action Coalition, among others—tossed away the previously named “Coming Out Week” for something broader and more inclusive: Queer Cultures Week.
“In the past people felt like Coming Out Week was outdated and that people wanted something new. Queer Cultures Week is more inclusive and open to fluidity,” said event organizer, Javon Garcia ’14. “We wanted to update the idea of Coming Out Week. Coming out is still a part of the conversation, but also having a bigger awareness of what is queerness.”
However, the decision to change the shift in focus of the event was not unanimous.
“Some people have felt like ‘queer’ is still a stigmatized word historically, but we wanted to help reclaim it,” Garcia said.
The leaders of all the groups under the SRC come together once every two weeks at the Queer Leadership Conference (QLC) to run ideas by each other of events each club wants to host. Last month, the QLC began to plan the Queer Cultures Week events to get an idea of what each group was doing.
The eight groups under the SRC joined forces to create a schedule brimming with knowledgeable guest speakers and events that challenged Grinnellians to rethink their notions regarding sexuality. Each group led its own events for the week. Many of the events succeeded in challenging their attendees through their interactive core.
QPOC hosted an open campus dialogue titled: “En(gay)ging Queer Culture.” Here, various students were asked questions regarding race, gender and sexuality that struck at issues that are often glossed over. Questions such as “can you pass for straight?” and “do you identify with your race or sexuality more?” were each brought up in a safe space with genuine responses.
“We wanted to hear many voices and perspectives,” said Briona Butler ’15, one of the leaders of the event and of QPOC. “It was really important for us to be interactive and to get people talking honestly about how our queerness intersects with our other identities and we were intentional about having our activities focus clearly on those issues—because race and class isn’t often brought up alongside queerness here at Grinnell.”
Overall, organizers behind Queer Cultures Week want to stress the message of inclusion the week sought to implement. Throughout the week, Spectrum had a poster session where individuals could write in where they felt they fell onto the spectrum of sexuality. QPOC’s event similarly had students agree or disagree with certain statements and followed with a discussion of why individual students felt that way about the statement. These types of events brought out a more diverse array of people, an aspect that the organizers strived to achieve.
“I just hope to engage more people outside of the SRC queer community. I also hope to educate and help bring people to events and to expand the idea of what queer is at Grinnell and different ideas of ‘queer’ and ‘queerness,’” Garcia said. “For people who don’t usually show up to queer meetings, we hope they will show up to these events to provide us with an array of different opinions.”
The SRC and its partner organizations want to stress that Queer Cultures Week is meant to be a learning experience for everyone on campus, not just those of the LBGTQ community.
“Sometimes the SRC can be seen as an exclusive place where you need your ‘gay card’ to come in. I want the campus to feel especially welcomed this week,” SRC librarian Kathryn Lasseter ’16  said.
The SRC, located in Younker Pit, contains hundreds of books, films and other queer texts as well as being simply a safe space for all sexual orientations, genders and races.

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