Raising awareness and providing education: Queertober 2016

Raising awareness and providing education: Queertober 2016

Megan Swett, Assistant Editor for News

This year’s annual month-long Queertober event – hosted by the LGBTQIA+ Resource Office – begins on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in the PAC Concourse, where ECCE Speaker Series guest Victor Salvo, along with UIS professors Dr. Holly Kent and Dr. Jason Pierceson, will present The Legacy Wall to UIS.

The Legacy Wall is a traveling LGBT history exhibit. It tells the often-hidden stories of 125 LGTBQIA+ individuals. The wall will be arrive at campus on Oct. 3 and will remain on the UIS grounds through Oct. 15.

Kerry Poynter, the director of the LGBTQIA+ Resource Office, said that he and the students became “very interested” in bringing the wall to campus after seeing it in the Illinois State Library last year.

There will also be two Safe Zone Fundamentals Sessions on Oct. 6 and 14. These sessions act as introductions that teach people the basic knowledge that goes into becoming a Safe Zone member.

Safe Zone members pledge to provide a safe, welcoming space for sexual and gender minorities. People interested in attending one of the sessions can register at uis.edu/safezone.

Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, which the campus will celebrate with its annual Closet Door on the Quad event.

“The event is about 10 years old,” Poynter said, noting that the event has been around longer than he has. “We kind of built on a tradition that students were already doing.”

As always, T-shirts commemorating the coming out event will be given out at the closet door. Students who are interested in picking up a T-shirt beforehand can do so at the LGTBQIA+ Resource Office in SLB22.

Other events throughout the month, like the Transgender and Bisexuality & Pansexuality Safe Zone sessions, dive further into intra-community topics of inclusion. The Transgender session will be held on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m., and the Bisexuality & Pansexuality session will be on Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.

Poynter said that they hope to “build a community” and “help create a culture of inclusion and acceptance.”

Another, more somber event will be on Oct. 21, when community members and allies will gather in the Diversity Center Lounge at noon to discuss the Orlando shooting and the culture surrounding it.

The Orlando shooting, which took place in a gay nightclub, left 49 victims and the shooter dead.

The day after the shooting, the shooter’s father went on record saying that his son was “enraged” at the sight of two men kissing. This, along with where the shooting occurred, leads community members to believe that this was not just an act of terrorism, but an act of extremely violent homophobia.

Poynter noted that many issues face the LGTBQIA+ community, both internally and externally. He pointed out that the number of transwomen of color murdered in the United States this year already surpassed the number from last year.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we don’t hear enough about things like that.”

These realities drive the desire to create a more inclusive campus. Students of all sexualities and gender identities get involved in with Queertober.

“Student voices are a big part of this,” Poynter said. “… Students are very involved in helping decide what these are.”