Students looking to get involved with LGBTQ student life on campus have come to a university that offers a wide range of programs, discussion groups, RSOs, and support systems.
The main hub of queer life for students in the College is the Office of LGBTQ Student Life, located at 5710 South Woodlawn Avenue. The office runs roughly 50 programs a year, including socials and conversations with guest speakers.
The office also runs a mentoring program in which undergraduates are paired with LGBTQ graduate students, faculty, or staff. Additionally, the office holds weekly discussion groups called “Q-groups” that students can join to discuss a wide range of topics. For example, third-year Alicia Wright ran a discussion group of seven people last year called “Intersection” to discuss issues of race and sexuality.
“It’s kind of just a space for queer people of color to come and talk about life, family, school, dating, all that sort of stuff with an emphasis on race or ethnicity and being queer,” Wright said. “People can talk and get what’s off their chest that they can’t normally say around larger groups of people.”
There are also several LGBTQ–focused student groups. The RSO Queers and Associates (Q&A) is known for its activism and for organizing Pride Week every spring, an event that features a variety of educational and social events including “Genderfuck,” a ball in which costumes and all forms of gender expression are encouraged. Organizations in the graduate and professional schools to support LGBT students include OutLaw for Law School students and OutReach for Booth School of Business students.
Third-year and Q&A member Jake Oakley found that Q&A was a welcoming place to meet new people and become more informed about queer issues.
“I wasn’t really educated about the trans community before I came to the University,” Oakley said. “It’s also given me a really good understanding of the breadth of different issues that people deal with, when queer issues intersect with different things like race or class or things along those lines.”
The effects of these resources are evident: The University received a perfect five-star rating from the LGBT–Friendly Campus Climate Index. In addition, the College in 2008 became one of the first colleges to offer a gender-neutral housing option for second-years and up.
Despite these strides, fourth-year Nory Kaplan-Kelly, a Q&A board member, believes that the University can still improve regarding LGBTQ issues. He said that one area of improvement students have been discussing for years is the implementation of a preferred name system, which will begin this fall. Under the new system, students will be able to choose a preferred name that will appear on Chalk, class rosters, grade rosters, and in the online directory.
Despite all of the resources available to students, Kaplan-Kelly said that being queer in college continues to bring a complex set of challenges.
“A lot of narratives about queer life at college either sound like horror stories or fairy tales,” he said. “This isn’t true. It isn’t magical nor are there monsters. Instead it takes a lot of time to adjust to new communities, make new friends, and learn new things.”