Everything queer about ‘Queertober’

Campus’ LGBTQA communities are underway with their month-long celebration of sexuality, originality and freedom.

The third annual “Queertober” kicked off last Tuesday and the communities on campus have a number of issues they want out in the open.

One of the month’s issues will be the communities taking back the word “queer” as an all encompassing term, according to the LGBTQA Resource Center Director Kerry Poynter.

“Youth and many academics have taken the negativity back and reprogrammed the term as a term of inquisitiveness,” he said.

After the assault of a gay student back in 2009, UIS has pushed for education and acceptance of the queer communities among students. Queertober is one of the cornerstones of education on campus.

“It’s an open attempt to create education, bring people together, create dialogue and create spaces where LGBTQA students can find some support in community,” Poynter said. “Also it creates an educative atmosphere outside of the classroom that supports the academic curriculum.”

The barrier between sports culture and the queer community was the issue to open the month’s schedule of speakers last Tuesday. Hudson Taylor and Jeff Sheng both spoke to students in the Recreation and Athletics Center.

Taylor, a former wrestler who sparked controversy when he wore an equality sticker on his headgear, is the founder of Athlete Ally, an organization aimed at ending homophobia in sports.

Sheng is the artist behind the Fearless Project. The art gallery portrays out athletes in high school sports, and the challenges that they faced.

Breaking this barrier was a major pillar of the Resource Center’s Queertober events.

“We have a tradition here to cross boundaries and cultural lines between different communities of people,” Poynter said. “Sports culture is seen as a place that is not accepting of LGBTQ people. This is an attempt to being to change that and to bring theses two communities together. Also, there are LGBTQ UIS Athletes here so this is a way to reach out to them.”

Sophomore Carolyn Miller said “it’s a way to change the perspective of the sports community to become more accepting of gay student athletes.”

“There are those stereotypes, especially for male athletes, where athletes have to be very macho and strong, masculine figures,” said the criminal justice and psychology double major. “That’s not always the case. People come in all different shapes and forms.”

But Miller urged it isn’t just about male athletes.

“Also for girls there’s that common assumption that girls who play sports are that ‘butch’ type,” she said. “It’s about helping people understand that these athletic programs should be open, they should let people be who they are and get rid of those stereotypes.”

Speakers, workshops and dialogue-friendly gatherings will be held throughout the month. Also, the Resource Center will be handing out free T-shirts to promote the events. Students can pick them up in the Student Life Building, room 22.

For a complete schedule of the month’s events, and for additional information about Queertober, you can visit the LGBTQA Resource Center’s page on the UIS home site or you can go to go.uis.edu/99problems.