The Queer Narratives, a panel about coming out hosted by Safe Space, took place last Thursday in Common Grounds.
“My mom always told me when I was little that most of the world’s problems could be solved over a cup of coffee; this was trying to bring that cup of coffee to the table,” Safe Space co- president Senior Erin Freeman said.
Sexuality, the LGBTQ community, and their rights have become a hot topic in recent years. However, when people speak on the subject, they are speaking on a faceless issue.
“[We wanted to] create a space where people can see a face with the words. So now when they’re having these conversations they have a face,” said Sophomore Erin Nafziger.
The space provided for the panel quickly filled with students, overflowing from the chairs to the couches, and some even to the floor. Throughout the event, more and more people who had been wandering through the area became attracted by the stories they were hearing.
One such student was First-Year Seth Davis.
“From past experience, if there’s something going on here in Common Grounds it’s usually pretty interesting. Even just overhearing a couple sentences I knew what it was about and it was a very interesting topic. I liked how frank it was… very informal. And so I really got a feel they were speaking truthfully… sincerely,” Davis said.
LGBTQ community members populated the panel, as well as a few allies.
“You don’t get to call yourself an ally; you have to be called an ally.” Safe Space co-president Sophomore Christian Parks said.
This comment, stated early on in the panel, generated a question from the audience, “what does it mean to be an ally?”
“An ally is a person who understands that they sit in a place of privilege, that they have their feet firmly in a privileged world,” Parks began, “And then an ally is willing to then spend their power and their privilege to promote the agenda or safety of a group that is under privileged.”
“They are willing to stand up and say ‘we need to talk about the other people, there is more to diversity than just heterosexualism.’ They have then, in my mind, become an ally. They have stood in a place where I cannot speak because I am outnumbered, and I am powerless, or at least I think I am powerless. They stand up and they make room for me.”
To the members of the panel, being an ally meant being there for more than marriage equality.
“A group of allies would be talking about queer homelessness, our educational system, the prison system, the school to prison pipeline, things other than marriage equality.” Parks said.
One of the problems that the panel spoke of when it came to allies was that many allies are there just for marriage equality.
“They’re all about marriage equality but there are so many things that are more important than marriage equality. When I picture a room full of allies it is people who are there for me for more than marriage equality. “ Raychel White, the president of Madison Equality at James Madison University, said.
This part of the panel really captured the attention of some members of the audience.
“I liked how they brought up being an ally and covering more than just one topic. Marriage equality is a big part but once that’s over they’re done. They aren’t really back into the activism. I had never really thought about that before.” Davis said.
“We hoped that it [the panel] would get the human aspect across. I think within this space that was seen tonight.”
According to Freeman, there will definitely be another panel held next semester.
-Hailey Holcomb, Sports Editor; photo credits, Michelle Mitchell