Georgia State is a melting pot of students. People can find races, ethnicities, cultures, religions and faces from all over the world here. Within all of that, students can also find an ever-growing LGBTQIQA community full of open-minded peers and faculty. LGBTQIQA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, questioning and asexual.
Queer on Campus
Cassidy Ryan is a sophomore English major at Georgia State who identifies as an agender queer person and uses they/them pronouns.
“I don’t really identify as male or female or a combination of the two, it’s more of just an absence of. Queer for me is both a political statement and something that marks fluidity in my orientation,” Ryan said.
When Ryan was wading through colleges, their main concern was, “Where can I be queer on campus?” They looked at multiple campuses across the state and Georgia State seemed to have the largest LGBTQIQA community. When Ryan narrowed it down, they were thinking, “Okay, where can I be gay? Cool, Georgia State.”
“I definitely think that we [Georgia State] are the apex of queer representation in Georgia on a college campus. I do think that other schools are very much lacking,” Ryan said.
Now, Ryan is the event coordinator for the Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the chair of recruitment for Georgia State’s Pride Parade Planning Committee and is also a member of a new organization on campus called Caring Colors. These groups have provided them with an extraordinary support system and safe place to call home for the next few crucial years of their life, and the experience will continue to shape them as a person for years to come.
“I came to Georgia State because of the diversity, I came because I knew that I could be queer on campus. Being a part of all these organizations has just shaped that and given me new friendships that I feel like will last forever and given me new opportunities,” Ryan expressed.
Adele Petitpre-Harris is another student who identifies as a part of the LGBTQIQA community. She started coming out to people on campus about a year ago when it would come up in conversation that she had a girlfriend.
“It felt like it was more normal on campus to talk about it than anywhere else in Atlanta… Unless you are within the gay community—in bars or something like that,” Petitpre-Harris said.
In the past year or so, Petitpre-Harris has noticed professors asking students what pronouns they go by on the first day of classes. “At least some of them are trying to be more inclusive,” Petitpre-Harris said. “The conversation is what matters and some of our professors are sparking that and opening the door for inclusivity.”
College is a time to learn, it’s a time to expand one’s definition of life and the classroom is a safe place to do so. Petitpre-Harris experienced this in her applied linguistics class where the floor was cleared for a discussion of sexist language which lead to students asking questions like, “What is transgender, what is non-gender?” and other inquiries of gender identity.
“I think that there is still a lot of people that are clueless about it and that maybe don’t know where to get answers from, or when the right time to ask is, or how to ask or who to ask. But there are a lot of people that are accepting and that are open but that don’t know a lot about it,” Petitpre-Harris said.
However, there are always two sides to every story and not everyone is going to have fortunate experiences like Ryan and Petitpre-Harris.
“As an agender person I still very much present as feminine and female. I know that there are a lot of students who are gender nonconforming or trans[gender] that do not have the same positive experience that I do. Also, some of the organizations on campus breed a little bit of transphobia and non-acceptance so I do think that my case is a little isolated,” Ryan said.
There is never a perfect time to be a human, but there are people out there who want to support one another and lift each other up. Colleges strive to be — or should strive to be — inclusive. It is the school’s duty to make sure that no student is discriminated against for their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sex or identity.
A big resource for the LGBTQIQA community on campus is the Multicultural Center. The office used to be on the Downtown campus, but this year the center is spreading its wings to the Clarkston and Decatur campuses and will eventually make it to Dunwoody, Alpharetta and Newton.
In honor of LGBTQIQA month, the Multicultural Center hosted program awareness events on the Decatur and Clarkston campuses. Tonya Cook comes from the Downtown campus but is the Program Specialist for the Multicultural Center on the Decatur and Clarkston campuses. Her main goal right now is to spread awareness and set up safe zone training for those Perimeter campuses.
“What is the best way to provide the best things and the best resources for our students. That’s what we’re here for,” Cook said.
Since the center is new, getting the ball rolling is tricky. Student involvement is high on the list for Cook and she is trying to gather as much information as she can to find the best fit programs for the students.
“Per semester, for the Atlanta campus they are probably reaching more than 100 or 150 or 200 [students] because it’s larger… But at the Clarkston campus, when we had this event last week it was 38 students who came to our table. Right now, we have about 10 [on the Decatur campus], that’s not bad. It’s not bad, we have to start somewhere,” Cook said.
Cook is right, everyone needs to start somewhere. The Downtown campus also has a LGBTQIQA Library that is full of resources and archives of literature and past articles on the subject. Keep an eye out for The Gay Pages coming to the library soon, courtesy of Cook.
“I am a big component of ‘If you can find the resources and share the knowledge people can be empowered to make decisions and to enhance their lives.’ And sometimes people just don’t know the info or know where to go to or are not aware of the resource,” Cook said.
Support from Faculty/Staff
Support of the LGBTQIQA community from faculty and staff on campus is a difficult thing to measure. However, based on the support of the school one would say it is safe to assume that support of the faculty would follow suit.
“I hope they would be supportive and be willing to get to know the students and the students be willing to share so it can be a two-way street of good, solid, viable communication. Because we are all a part of humanity, we all can learn from each other,” Cook said.
But alas, that is not always going to be the case. “Staff support for LGBT students, in general, is kind of wishy-washy. I feel like I can get a pretty good vibe and know whether or not to tell a professor my pronouns or just let them make me suffer. There are definitely some that seem better than others and there are definitely some that I would not open up to about it. There are some departments that are better than others,” Ryan said.
Unfortunately, that is not surprising. Georgia State is a progressive college and the amount of student diversity is overwhelming, but the diversity within our staff and faculty is not. This is just one reason why Ryan wants to stay here after graduation in hopes of being an English professor under the trans umbrella on campus. Students need to see people like themselves holding positions they want to hold one day to know that that goal is attainable.
“Coming to Georgia State really changed my life in a million amazing ways. I really do want to stay here and breed those changes and growth in other students,” Ryan said.
Pride with Georgia State
Atlanta Pride Parade happens each year in correspondence with National Coming Out Day. This year Georgia State had its own spot in the parade and over a hundred students marched alongside in solidarity with pride.
Georgia State dancers were bubbling with pride as they skipped and boogied their way down 10th St. behind the cars that were colorfully decorated with Georgia State pride. Our band lead the way in front of the cars and dancers, hyping up the crowd for the rest of the students marching. Pounce proudly paraded and showed off some moves of his own as everyone marched in unison showing support for our LGBTQIQA community in the city and on campus.
The love and support was inescapable in Midtown on Sunday. The overwhelming feeling of pride in our community flooded in and washed over every single person who attended, whether they marched in the parade or not.
LGBTQIQA Organizations to seek out
-Fee: $60 per semester