OUTPeers/OUTAllies list now published
Members of The Bridge make up a human rainbow on Monday, April 16 to kick off Pride Week on campus. Flags stream from Miller Library's windows.
- Transgender surgeon speaks
- Students gather for Trans Day of Remembrance
- Film screening of "The Transformation"
Last month, the College’s student-run queer and ally club, The Bridge, sent an e-mail to all members of the College community concerning the proposed compilation of the names and e-mail addresses of students who are “out” and those who consider themselves to be straight allies. Now, a month later, the OUTPeers/OUTAllies list has been published and posted all around campus.
The work toward creating the list began long before these e-mails were sent. Carla Aronsohn ’13, who worked tirelessly on the initiative, said that the conception of the list was motivated by a series of homophobic events that happened during the last school year. “There was vandalism of a car with homophobic slurs. [Also], a Community Advisor (CA) board display about LGBTQIA issues was ripped down,” she recalled. “It became very apparent that these issues are very important” and need to be discussed, she said.
To this end, The Bridge held OUTPeers and OUTAllies training sessions last fall for those who wanted to learn how to most effectively talk about gender issues, regardless of their sexuality. Associate Dean of Students and Pugh Center Director Tashia Bradley said that these sessions presented an opportunity for people to learn more about the LGBTQIA experience.
“We do not understand each other’s experiences, so we are prone to discriminate,” Bradley said. “[With these training sessions], my goal was to provide an educational experience.” Afterward, there was a call to create a list of people who have gone through the training.
The compilation of names was modeled after similar efforts in other academic institutions. Aronsohn visited Bowdoin College in the fall and was amazed at the success of its programming and educational materials regarding LGBTQIA issues. “They have a huge list, with over 200 people, [both as peers and allies],” she said. “Sadly, we don’t have anywhere near [that number].”
“We still made the list to show support for people struggling with their sexuality and to raise that sort of visibility for open-mindedness,” Aronsohn added. “However, the list is as much for people who are struggling with their sexuality or who have a friend who’s come out, as it is for people who don’t consider themselves an ally or queer.” Student Gender and Sexuality Diversity Resource Officer Berol Dewdney ’13 agreed and said that LGBTQIA issues are “not just the concern of The Bridge…We want the list to have a more far-reaching and broader end...We want people to be aware that these issues affect a huge part of the community, and are important.”
According to Aronsohn, the list “spans all different demographics at Colby…We have people from The Bridge and people in athletics…I received e-mails from people I’ve never met before saying that they want to be included in the list…That is empowering.”
Bradley added that the list can be a helpful tool in building community values. “We want to encourage other people to be supportive….We want to provide people the opportunity to be involved, to be engaged [and] to be in solidarity with the rest of the [Colby] community,” she said. The OUTPeers/OUTAllies list is meant to be a source of information. Dewdney, whose name appears at the top of the OUTAllies list, said that allies can use it “to connect with other allies and try to be better ones.”
Still, Aronsohn said the creation of the list is just a small step toward addressing LGBTQIA issues. She suggested that LGBTQIA issue awareness be integrated into the first-year orientation program. “Sexuality should be discussed at this point [in our Colby careers]….People come from so many different backgrounds, [and] we need to have a common vocabulary…to have productive conversations about gender and sexuality,” she said.
Dewdney concurred. “We have gotten to a stage where gender issues are more talked about….However, we need to restage the conversation constantly, considering the new influx of people each year,” she said. Dewdney also argued that the diverse cultures and viewpoints at the College can be advantageous to solving these problems. “We can use ‘mosquito warfare’ and confront the issues from different directions all the time,” she said. “We can make change by working with different types of people, [but] we all need to come to the same table to discuss these issues.”
Bradley asserted that the community needs to change its views on this idea of questioning one’s sexuality. “Questioning means trying to find clarity around your sexuality,” she said. “The fundamental question is ‘Who am I?’ Most of us don’t think about our sexuality on a regular basis, [but] everybody, at some point, should question…[that is], critique the prescriptive ways of acting....Unfortunately, in many places, people will tell us that other people are not questioning, which is absolutely false,” Bradley said. The point of the OUTPeers/OUTAllies list is to show that “there are people around campus who can help [those who are questioning their sexuality] think through it by sharing their own experiences.”