Q&A; provides safe environment for those not used to it | The American Word

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Q&A; provides safe environment for those not used to it

Maddi Pariser | 1/15/14 10:07pm

(Photo Credit: The Talon)

A somber mood plagued the Kay Spiritual Center on the night of Nov. 19. Students gathered for Trans* Day of Remembrance (TDoR), hosted by AU’s Queers and Allies (Q&A), honoring those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

TDoR was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a trans* woman who was killed in 1998. The event memorializes the hatred and fear gender non-conforming people face, something Q&A aims to eliminate on campus.

“Our main goal and mission is to really represent and provide a safe space for the LGBTQ community here at AU,” Q&A Executive Director Tyler Bowders said. “We realize that there is no real way to represent every single person but by building a community and keeping people engaged we hope that people feel comfortable identifying and talking.”

Reverend Darlene Nipper, Deputy Executive Director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, gave a keynote address that served as a call-to-action for the witnessing students.

“This kind of devaluing of human life must end,” Nipper said in her speech. “No one’s life ought to be cast aside due to their apparent differences.”

Bowders was proud of the chapter’s decision to bring the memorial back to campus after not having a TDoR for the past two years. He felt it was one of club’s most successful events and is his favorite because it captures the overall purpose of the organization.

Q&A has organized a number of similar events throughout this semester. Earlier this year, the chapter coordinated Not Your Average Sex Talk–an open discussion that aims to break down the typical heterosexual norms of the “sex talk.” Q&A executive board members and Hannah Greenberg, Director of Women’s Initiative, facilitated the conversation for over 50 students.

According to Bowders, the event coordinators made the conversation student-lead rather than bring in a trained professional to avoid the feeling of an uncomfortable lecture that has occurred during the event in the past. The idea was to create a supportive and understanding atmosphere where students could trust one another

More recently, the organization threw Queer Thanksgiving for its members. Students attended a potluck dinner and participated in several different activities. Q&A wanted its members to experience a holiday as themselves as many of them have not come out to their families.

“Queer Thanksgiving has become a great tradition where LGBT students can celebrate the holiday season with their queer family,” Ray Bowman, the 2012-13 Q&A Executive Director, said. “For some, this is the only group of people they can feel safe and be their true self with. So it is important to have that support group, especially during the holiday season when family togetherness is greatly emphasized.”