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Dean Rivera to leave IC, new leadership to be determined

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On the morning of Nov. 13, Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun announced over email that Rivera would be leaving the college at the end of the fall semester to accept a new position.

“It is with very mixed emotions that I write to share the news that Jason Rivera, Dean of the Sophomore Class and Director of the Intercultural Center, has accepted the position of Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Success at Rutgers University, Camden Campus,” Braun said in the email.

The Intercultural Center, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, has recently struggled with high turnover of its directors, so much so that the Intercultural Center Director and Dean of the Sophomore Class Jason Rivera, who joined the college on July 1, 2016, was known to tell students about his intention to maintain the position.

“If you ever talked to him, and you talked to him about the turnover rate, he would say, ‘I’m here. I’m gonna stay here,’” Cindy Lopez ’20, IC intern and member of the Pride Month planning committee, said.

Rivera has overseen the planning of the IC’s planned expansion into the Sproul Observatory, created the LGBTQ advisory committee and hired Cooper Kidd, the college’s 2017-2018 LGBTQ fellow. According to Rivera, the change in position will afford him greater agency and ability to affect change on a larger scale.

“This role provides me with an important opportunity to reach a greater number of students and to work at a significantly higher level to support student success across the RU-Camden campus,” Rivera said in an email. “As I have grown in my career, I have become deeply passionate about and committed to supporting students as they pursue their goals and aspirations.  Often times, the barriers that impede student success are structural and systemic.  The work I will be doing at RU-Camden will allow me to identify, address and/or dismantle those barriers and help a greater number of students achieve their fullest potential.”

Lopez, who was appointed an IC intern this semester, formed a close relationship with Rivera last year.

“Last year I wasn’t a huge part of the IC, but after the election, after other stuff that happened last semester and last year in general, I got really close to him because I would just go to his office and play with his dog … and you know, just hang out and chill, so for me he’s kind of a big part of campus,” she said. “It’s just nice having him around.”

Lopez did not know about Rivera’s planned departure until she read Dean Braun’s email. The news shocked her because she expected that he would be the director during all of her time at the college.

“It’s just the fact that he said he was going to stay for a long time and even this semester, I was talking to him and he wanted to do a lot more long-term stuff, like long-lasting, and now he’s leaving so it’s like all those ideas, all that planning–sure, they might still have them, but he won’t be there,” she said. “It’s also really unexpected, like I was so surprised when I saw he was leaving. It’s never something that I would have thought would have happened, like ever, and not during my four years here.”

During the transition period until a new IC director is hired, interim IC assistant director Nyk Robertson will work with the Dean’s Office to lead the IC. Hiring new staff members in higher education often takes multiple months, if not longer. Last year, Robertson, then the LGBTQ fellow, was appointed to fill the position of Mo Lotif, who resigned in April 2017.

Lopez expressed concern about the fact that after Rivera leaves, the IC leadership will have little combined experience dealing with student groups and issues at the college.

“We don’t know who will be the interim director of the IC,” Lopez said. “If it’s a current faculty member, then that’s fine because they know the history of the IC and the culture and stuff like that, but if they bring an outside person, then they’re gonna have to be learning everything and we already have Cooper, who’s new as well and is also just learning stuff, so if we have both new people learning stuff then it’s just gonna be Nyk, and Nyk’s only been here for a year.”

According to Julia Wakeford ’19, member of the Swarthmore Indigenous Students Society (SISA), the lack of administrative continuity at the IC hinders the progress of student groups.

“The hiring process takes as long as these people fill these roles for,” she said. “I feel like it’s almost like the students are here longer than the administrators, which is insane. It’s supposed to be the reverse. It’s just frustrating because we have to re-explain ourselves and who we are and what we’re trying to get done on campus to different administrators, it feels like, each semester or each year we re-explain ourselves over again.”

Though Braun stated in her email that the Dean’s Office will work “to develop a plan to ensure that students are well supported during this transition and that the Intercultural Center continues to thrive,” Lopez feels that the change of hands further complicates circumstances that have made this year an especially busy one for the IC, including what she feels is a tense political climate on campus.

“This was already a transitional year because of the Sproul Observatory being remodeled, so that was already a challenge, and we were gonna have programming surrounding that,” Lopez said. “And in another sense, too, since it’s the 25th anniversary and all of these events have already been planned for this year, and he won’t be around to see them through, which really sucks…[and] other stuff that’s happened on campus has just caused it to be a very tense place, which is not to say that that’s necessarily bad, but it just adds on to this jumble that’s happening.”

Students will still be able to carry out these initiatives and their individual projects in the spring without Rivera, but the consistently high turnover rate of the Director positions at the IC makes the future of the IC uncertain. For example, Rivera and the intern team created “Conversations around CARE” as part of their long-term goal to “promote further discussion, provide resources and education, as well as generate support from other members of our community.”

“It’s going to be hard. But we, the students, don’t want to see it fall apart and I don’t think Nyk or Cooper is going to let that happen, and there’s also a lot of other faculty that are going to make sure that doesn’t happen because this is such a necessary space on campus,” Lopez said. “It’s going to be fine, it’s just going to be hard, and annoying and frustrating, but I think we’re going to be fine, hopefully.”

Pride Month events celebrate LGBTQ+ identity

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The Intercultural Center is celebrating Pride Month as its current Heritage Month in acknowledgement and support of the LGBTQ+ community. While the rest of America celebrates Pride Month every June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, Swarthmore is slightly more fluid with its dates. This semester, the IC will be celebrating Pride Month from Oct. 7 to Nov. 21.

In an attempt to celebrate and recognize the multitudes of identities, including those that are traditionally marginalized, Swarthmore’s Intercultural Center hosts various “Heritage Months,” where speakers and events are organized around these identities. They also serve as educational experiences for the rest of the community. The LGBTQ+ community was first formally celebrated at Swarthmore in 1995, with “Coming Out Week,” which has evolved over the years to become Pride Month, which was first commemorated by the IC on this campus in 2013.

“Pride Month is Swarthmore’s celebration of LGBTQ+ identity, community, and history. It focuses on creating awareness and understanding of the contributions, histories, and experiences of LGBTQ+ folx. The target audience for the events of Pride Month is LGBTQ+ students, including those that are questioning, and allies!” wrote Cooper Kidd, the LGBTQ+ fellow at the IC, in an email.

IC fellow Nyk Roberts expanded on this. They mentioned that they wanted to create spaces for the members of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their identities.

When you look at our Pride Month calendar, it is evident that this year’s committee wanted to focus on being in community with other LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff through parties, celebrations, and meetings around different LGBTQ+ identities,” said Roberts.

The events planned this year emphasize art, education, and celebration. The month began with a poster-making session that involved students coming together to create posters to celebrate famous LGBTQ+ community members of the past.  There was also a panel that discussed the question “Am I Queer Enough?”, where professor Sa’ed Atshan gave a talk, after which a student panel shared their experiences of coming out and the various levels of acceptance that they felt.  Another popular event that will have taken place at the time of publishing is the Queer Fashion Show, which has been a fixture at past Pride Months, according to Roberts.

This week, there will be a Glitter Bomb Party at Paces on Nov. 4, as well as the “Parrish is Burning” Drag Show, featuring many of the Drag Queens who took part in last semester’s Pride Month “Royal Drag Show” event. Over one hundred students attended the show last semester, many of whom expressed to Roberts that they would like it to be included in future Pride Month Celebrations. Along with other luncheons and celebrations, Nov. 20 will be observed, campus- and nationwide, as Trans Day of Remembrance with a candlelight vigil. A few other events that aren’t funded by the IC also take place at this time. Most notably, the Sager Fund, started in 1988 by Richard Sager ’73, is bringing S. Bear Bergman, an American trans man, author, poet, playwright, and theater artist, to Swarthmore.

These events are mostly planned by the Pride Month Committee, comprising of 20 individuals from all four class years who are selected through an open call process. Kidd serves as a mentor to this committee, offering logistical and functional support to them. Members of the committee declined to comment for this piece.

To learn more about Swarthmore’s Queer History, Dean Rivera recommends an article written for the Phoenix in 2013, entitled “A Queer History of Swarthmore.” Along with the celebration of Pride Month, the IC serves as a resource to students, including those who identify within the LGBTQ+ spectrum, year-round.


IC celebrates 25th anniversary, hires new LGBTQ+ fellow

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With a new LGBTQ+ fellow, heritage celebrations such as Pride Month and Latinx Heritage Month, and the approach of its 25th anniversary, the college’s Intercultural Center has a busy year ahead.

For its anniversary, the IC has a program for each month. This month, the center is highlighting 25 facts about the IC, which are posted in various places around campus. For example, Fact #15, found in Wharton AB 1, reads: “At a certain point, Swarthmore’s admissions department began creating admissions brochures for specific populations, such as LGBTQ+, Asian, and Latinx prospective students.”

“Our goals this year are to continue to expand the visibility and reach of the Intercultural Center in order to advocate for identity-based groups to ensure marginalized [and] oppressed voices and perspectives are included in college-wide initiatives and decision making,” said IC director and dean of the sophomore class Jason Rivera in an email.

On Sept. 25, The IC had a kickoff event for Latinx Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Future events for the month include an a “Celebrating La Familia” event, a Moment of Silence and Town Meeting Observing Indigenous People’s Day, and a Breakfast, Latinx Documentary, and Discussion.

This past Monday, the IC had an open house for faculty, students, and staff that featured food from different cultures, music, and a chance to talk to each other and IC staff.

“I’d like to think the IC Open House … was very successful,” said Rivera. “I was especially happy to see so many students from each class year interacting.  Also, at one point, I looked over at the Fragrance Garden, in the IC Courtyard, and saw students, faculty, and staff interacting — some sitting on the grass and benches, some standing and mingling, and others swaying to the sounds of the music as they chatted with each other. It was a beautiful moment — one that I hope we can continue to recreate.”

Next year, Rivera plans to host a joint open house with the Interfaith Center and the Office of International Student Services in their new space in Sproul Hall. Joyce Tompkins, director of religious and spiritual life, and Jennifer Marks-Gold, director of international student services, were present at the IC Open House.

Dean Rivera said that the IC could also improve on some missions, such as working more closely with student organizations.

“I don’t think we do this poorly now, but I certainly think there is room for improvement,” he said.

Cooper Kidd, the new LGBTQ+ fellow, will be working with organizations like COLORS, a group for queer students of color, and the Swarthmore Queer Union. He majored in sociology with a focus in stratification at the University of Maryland at College Park, where he worked closely with the LGBT Equity Center. During his time there, he helped program a weekly support group for transgender students and one for students who identify as queer and Asian. This work motivated him to join the staff here, and he thinks this background will prove invaluable at the Intercultural Center.

“I feel that I am better able to offer logistical and functional support having had experience doing similar work to what students at Swarthmore do,” said Kidd. “In a similar way I feel that my personal experience also informs my work here as I know what it is like to be a queer person navigating college.”

In addition to working with the LGBTQ+ student organizations, Kidd will be a resource for students and will work with the Pride Month Committee. Pride Month runs from Oct. 20 to Nov. 20. Kidd appreciates that the committee has been intentional about planning intersectional events, such as the Latinx movie screening.

“The foci that I have this academic year are around creating intentional programming that focuses on intersectionality and processes and practices that are more inclusive for trans students,” said Kidd.

Ignacio Rivera’s visit to campus on Sept. 8 provides one example of this intersectional program. Rivera (they/them/theirs) is “a Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Black-Boricua Taíno … activist, writer, educator, filmmaker, performance artist, and mother,” as described in the email announcing their visit. Rivera’s events on campus, “The Evolution of the Talk and Sexy Survivor” and “All of Me Poetry Performance,” focused on discussing these identities in the campus community.

One way Kidd hopes to help transgender students on campus is by helping the Self Study Action Committee streamline the name change process.

Kidd also wants to help students access queer-related events both on and off campus. He took students to the Philly Trans Health Conference in early September and to Princeton University on Wednesday, Oct. 4 to see black queer female writer Roxane Gay in conversation.

Just as the college has a new LGBTQ+ fellow, the IC has new interns, including five first-year students. As shown in a pamphlet distributed at the open house on Monday, they bring a diverse set of backgrounds and skills to the job. All the interns have office hours, available online at the IC website.

“I hope that I can not only use those experiences to help other people but that by hearing others’ experiences, they can help me figure out my own,” said Gene Witkowski ’21, one of the interns, referring to his experiences questioning his sexuality and his ethnic identity as a Haitian-American.

“I would love to say that I’ve been able to make somebody’s experience more inclusive, or make Swat feel more like a home to them, or at least make the IC feel more like a home to them,” said Witkowksi.

Dean Rivera echoed Witkowski’s goals, saying that the IC has done well in fostering a caring and supportive community.

“When I arrived at Swarthmore in July 2016, it was clear to me that the IC was in many ways a home base for some students,” said Rivera. “I thought then, and still believe today, that it is incredibly important for students to have a space like the IC because I know how valuable it is to have something to connect to when you are a student — to have a space where you can feel comfortable being yourself.”

The IC has come a long way since 1992, when it was founded “as a result of student activism aimed at securing increased administrative support of, and commitment to, Students of Color and Queer students at Swarthmore College,” according to its website. Back then, it only consisted of three student groups, according to Swarthmore’s website: the Hispanic Organization for Latino Awareness, the Swarthmore Asian Organization, and Action Les-B-Gay, which have since evolved into other organizations on campus.

Now, with a much broader array of organizations and a dedicated staff, the IC looks forward to an eventful year.

Malcolm Lazin of Equality Forum visits campus, highlights queer issues today

in Around Campus/News/Regional News by

On Thursday, April 6th, the Executive Director of Equality Forum Malcolm Lazin visited the Intercultural Center for “Get Your History Straight,” a talk centered on the establishment of the modern, high-profile movement for queer rights in the U.S. The event is a part of Swarthmore’s Pride Month celebration, which was advertised through the Intercultural Center. Pride Month, typically held in October, included events on queer art, history, networking, and more.

“Get Your History Straight” extended past Swarthmore to Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College as students from across the Tri-College were in attendance, and Professor of history at Haverford Paul Farber, invited by Lazin, moderated the discussion.

The talk began with a screening of the PBS documentary “Gay Pioneers,” of which Lazin was executive producer. Equality Forum, the nonprofit that coordinates LGBT History Month and that Lazin heads, defines the film as “the story of the first organized annual ‘homosexual’ civil rights demonstrations held in Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC from 1965-69. When few would publicly identify themselves as gay, these brave pioneers challenged pervasive homophobia,” on a website it owns dedicated to the documentary. The film detailed the origins of the modern U.S. movement for queer rights in the 1960s at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The film largely argues that, without these initial demonstrations that helped dispel stereotypes of queer people, the Stonewall riots would not have happened or have been as successful.

Following the screening, a discussion of the film and Q&A occurred with Lazin, Farber, and the attendees. Lazin opened the discussion with a disclaimer.

“For those that think that Stonewall was the start of this movement, I would say they’re misinformed,” Lazin said. “We don’t remember [the demonstrations before Stonewall] because people didn’t take time to remember.”

Farber guided the initial conversation, walking through issues of the conceivability of a queer identity, the pace of social change, and political tactics in the early actions compared to today’s larger movement. Lazin responded, recognizing legal and institutional restrictions on queer life like the American Psychological Association’s classification of homosexuality as a psychological disorder; noting that there are legislative, judicial, and public facets to social change; and that movements often grow to accommodate more voices, images, and people over time.

The conversation moved to the audience, and Swarthmore was introduced into the conversation. Students’ questions focused on issues of moving forward after the establishment of marriage equality in the U.S. as well as how to negotiate multiple ideals within queer and trans movements and how to make those movements not only national ones but more specific and intentional in communities like Swarthmore.

Lazin referred to the expectations of the first demonstrators for queer rights in Philadelphia for the inclusion of multiple ideas. He recalled a quote from Lilli Vincenz:

“Just to show that we were good patriots, we respected the flag. We were first-class American citizens, and we had, that was a message we had wanted to tell everyone from the beginning,” Vincenz said.

Lazin said it was important to introduce the idea of queer identity into the political consciousness then as is important today.

Farber also brought focus to the issues of campus politics and constructing meaningful relationships and coalitions.

“Understanding the roots of intersectionality will provide a pathway to understanding and possibilities. These issues are … bigger than you, so respect complexity and commonality,” Farber said.

He then argued that undergraduates should not be fooled into thinking college is separate from reality.

Following the talk, Robert Conner ’20, an organizer of the event, touched on the importance of Lazin’s work generally and at Swarthmore.

“Malcolm Lazin’s work is multifaceted and intersectional in the sense that it currently pertains to LGBTQ activism, but it touches on racial and socioeconomic equalities as well,” he said. “The multifaceted and intersectional nature and approach of Malcolm Lazin’s work and career is very relevant to the Swarthmore community.”

Conner went on to discuss how Swarthmore’s engagement with activism at different levels of community reflects why Lazin’s work is relevant to campus.

“In the Swarthmore community, we constantly deal with and carry out activism pertaining to issues at local and national levels,” he said. “It was productive and engaging to see the Swarthmore community and Malcolm Lazin interact and exchange ideas.”

Sydnie Schwarz ’20 reflected on her friendship to Conner and relationship with Philadelphia as to why she first joined Lazin in the IC.

“Robert Connor is one of my good friends, and he has told me about Malcolm Lazin throughout the school year from a point of admiration, both for his work and for him as a person,” Schwarz said. “Not only did I want to hear from the person who is a role model to one of my close friends, but I knew that this speaker is integral to various developments in Philadelphia, old and new. I have been making a conscious effort to access and engage with Philadelphia, and Mr. Lazin not only offered a historical and lived narrative of the origins of the Annual Reminder in Philadelphia that became Gay Pride but also insight of particular Philadelphian historical sites, current climate and organizations to visit and research.”

Schwarz continued, noting how Swarthmore should engage more intently with Philadelphia as a resource but as a point where intersectionality can be found purposefully.

“You know, my immediate reaction upon hearing Malcolm talk about the public resources offered by the Equality Forum was why didn’t I find this during high school when I was leading an Allies? Simple resources like a queer icon per day during LGBT+ History Month or the historical films would have created productive dialogue,” Schwarz said. “However, I am admittedly unfamiliar with current campus initiatives to uplift queer and trans people, and I do not know how I would visualize a sweeping energy of Equality Forum coming to Swarthmore. Nevertheless, I generally feel that Swarthmore needs to systematically engage more with Philadelphia. There is a richness of activism and history to the city that is very accessible to us. Especially in consideration of how uncommon this urban access is for a small liberal arts school like Swarthmore, I feel that we do not engage with it except for on an individual basis.”

Schwarz went on to describe how Lazin highlighted issues in civil movements and how they have changed since their inception.

“Malcolm made a purposeful effort to talk about issues of intersectionality in Philadelphia movements. He pointed out how many queer women initiated the Annual Reminder, yet the movement did not seem to see them as the visible founders of Gay Pride Instead, white cisgender gay men took on the face of progress for the community. He also talked about how protestors in the sixties came to the march trying to look ‘professional’ and like ‘ first class citizens,’ basically by making their socio-economic status prominent as if that made them deserve rights more than unemployed or unprofessionally dressed people,” Schwarz said. “However, he noted that organizations in Philadelphia are currently investing much focus into trans women of color, and remarked that the new leader of a major local organization is the first black queer women to hold such a position in Philadelphia. This contrasts with the resistance he saw many organizations put up about even including transgender people in the community not long ago. I feel that awareness to this hierarchy within marginalized groups and new breakthroughs concerning intersectionality offers insight about how to uplift less systematically enabled persons into the conversation and pay attention to what faces are popularized in leadership.”

Conner noted the collaborative efforts between Lazin and Farber in the discussion section of the evening, commenting on their knowledge of regional resources and historical connections from the beginnings of the movement to now.

“In addition, both Professor Farber and Malcolm elucidated the little-known facts that the modern LGBT movement began well before the Stonewall riots, and a lot of it took place in Philadelphia,” Conner said. “Professor Farber and Malcolm pointed out that there is a lot of activism and internships that can be done in Philadelphia, and that students ought to take advantage of the city’s wide-ranging resources.”

Schwarz discussed how Farber provided some context to the liberal arts campus that Lazin complemented through his more regional and national efforts.

“I honestly missed the fact that Professor Farber was also coming, but I am so glad he was there! The dynamic worked well because Professor Farber well understood the Swarthmore student and their environment — an insight Malcolm Lazin did not necessarily share,” Schwarz commented. “While Malcolm Lazin answered questions and spoke about his network and experiences in Philadelphia, Professor Farber relayed his points back to the Tri-Co education and its sexuality and gender studies, and both offered perspectives on moving forward with the general agenda and individual efforts concerning LGBT+ rights. … He is teaching a course in the fall on public art in Philadelphia that I want to take and found out about because of this talk that transformed into a general reflection on local activism of all sorts.”

Conner concluded by hammering the idea that the discussion portion was most meaningful for students as the engagement with a national figure like Lazin could provide a large amount of information and experience to student activism and understanding of history.

“The students who attended Malcolm’s event particularly benefited from getting to ask him in-depth questions about career approaches towards enacting change,” Conner said.

Schwarz said the campus could gain lessons in empathy and relationships by participating in more talks like Lazin’s beyond just the implications of activism and civic engagement.

“I was disappointed that the room was not full, but I appreciated all of the questions and answers put forth. I almost could not make it because of practice, and I know there were a lot of conflicting events and a general increase in workload as classes are coming to a close, which was too bad,” Schwarz noted. “More talks like this would increase student interest in the local social environment beyond Swarthmore, an effect that would inherently increase skill set of being sensitive and observant to all forms of learning, particularly those that are immediate and visceral. I think students can also learn a lot from the realizations Malcolm Lazin has had throughout his lifetime about recognizing certain local leaders or sites as needing to be documented as a part of the narrative of the Civil Rights Movement and his personal actions (creating films, interviewing, submitting historical marker proposals) to execute those ideas.”

Lazin’s coming to campus, Farber’s direction, and student inquiry allowed for an important discussion of where queer and trans movements in the U.S. started to gain traction. The talk initiated reflections on where the movements came from, and students now see the possibilities for deeper intersectional engagement and empathy as long as discussions like these are consistent within and beyond the classroom on campus.

Queer Love in the Time of Trump

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I grew up in San Francisco, the capital of peace and love in America. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the 2016 election and its aftermath. And no, I don’t just mean the fact that the most powerful person in the country is now a human Cheeto with no moral compass or intelligent, sustainable plan. I mean the sudden outpouring of love from all sides of the anti-Trump resistance.

Ever since someone first came up with “Love Trumps Hate” I have seen nothing but declarations of love, mainly from middle-aged, economically advantaged white women. It reminds me of the oh-so-original “Love is Love” signs that these same women carried around just before same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states. At the time, I had noted that none of the queer people I knew had those signs. Where do we stand now? What is the role of queer love in these times, considering it may be threatened by the administration? As a group menaced by Trump, what should we do with all of this love being thrown at us?

Disclaimer — as a cisgendered white person, I’m very safe and well off compared to many transgender folk or queer people of color. I’m more worried about my future as a woman than as a queer person. Yet when I went back to my old high school during winter break, my old classmates gave me long, worried looks, and asked me in hushed tones how I was doing. It appears many straight “allies” have convinced themselves that the loss of same-sex marriage is imminent, and that the queer community will collapse when that happens.

“Marriage is a concern because it’s something that a lot of people strive toward…but it’s not the most important thing to me,” explains Maya Henry ’20. She expresses more concern about the possibility of healthcare becoming less accessible and more expensive. She isn’t the only one to distance herself from the issue of same-sex marriage. Will Marchese ’20 expresses his annoyance that it has been made such an issue, pointing out that gay marriage only provides benefits such as healthcare to the married couples. That leaves many queer people without an economic or health care safety net, especially considering how the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately affected by issues of poverty. But, of course, economic hardships and lack of health care make for a much less emotional photo-op than attractive same-sex couples getting married on the beach.

Forget about marriage. What matters more is queer relationships, in and of themselves. I have both been encouraged to be out and proud and to hide any same-sex relationship I have, out of fear of being attacked.

“It’s important to celebrate our love … But also keep in mind people might need to go back into the closet for … personal safety … I feel like there’s gonna be an increase in violence,” believes Gretchen Trupp ’18.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity in terms of what the climate will be like for queer relationships,” Henry adds.

Not the most positive picture. It makes me wonder what, exactly, we can do with all this gratuitous love being thrown at us. What about our love? Is there now some sacred responsibility to love everyone and be above all the hate? Trupp firmly disagrees with the notion of having to love everyone, especially people who fundamentally oppose who we are at our core — people such as Milo Yiannopoulous, an openly gay Breitbart journalist who loudly supports Trump and the alt-right. His scheduled appearance at the University of California, Berkeley caused a riot and was cancelled for security reasons. There wasn’t much love being directed at him there. The queer community is divided — some of us voted Trump, or care little about what he does until it affects us directly.

Straight people, just a heads up: queer people can be jerks too. Direct your love towards those who really need it. As Marchese points out, those that really need love and support are those we don’t hear about often, such as transgender people of color or undocumented queer people. They may not be commonly represented in mainstream LGBT+ discourse, but their struggles deserve attention, respect, and support.

Let’s discuss that term, “love.” It’s a laudable intention, but what can we do with it? How will having the love of some random “ally” help in the time of Trump? Marchese archly points out that, while love is crucial for self-preservation in our communities, “Love does NOT trump hate; direct action and militant anti-fascism do.” This love won’t be especially useful if it doesn’t become concrete action.

“[Love is] relevant as we … draw strength from our community and allies … but … it’s very clearly not enough,” Trupp says.

“The love trumps hate thing makes me roll my eyes sometimes, but at the core of it I think it’s a way of standing with people whose struggles you may not fully understand, but being there to advocate for them,” admits Henry.

So, allies, thank you for your love. It is appreciated. But we don’t just need love. We need actions to back it up. And more than that, we need respect. Understanding. We need you to look out for communities that you may have forgotten about, to remember that the queer community does not start and end with rainbow flags and “Love is Love.” We need you to listen when we point out why pussy hats or the overrepresentation of wealthier white women in the Women’s March are exclusionary and should be critiqued for all the good intentions behind them.

Love is something valuable and not that uncommon, that you give the people you feel closest to — the ones you would fight to protect and help. So don’t say you love everyone if you’re not willing to fight for them.

“I don’t think you have to love everyone, but trying [to understand] each other is important to me,” Henry concluded.

We’re not that desperate for love, people. We’ll take listening and respect.

Hughes turns new leaf, in verse

in Arts/Uncategorized by

Margaret Hughes ’17, recipient of the English department’s $2,500 Morrell-Potter grant, abandoned her proposed plan almost immediately.

“I sort of set my goal to be writing poetry that reads like smut and smut that reads like poetry,” Hughes says. She laughs, leaning back, crossing her blue Converse All-Stars over her baggy pants, and adjusting the crown of flowers resting on her forehead. “I think I [wrote] that on one of my online dating profiles. That’s really pretentious.”

In eighth grade, she found her first book of poetry, a 1966 textbook by X. J. Kennedy, in her parents’ bathroom. After turning to “We Real Cool,” by Gwendolyn Brooks, she was hooked. Hughes memorized her favorite poems — even now, she can recite the entirety of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” five pages and over a thousand words long. Now, the copy sits in her house, battered from use.

What emerged from her work over the summer, she elaborates, is an investigation into emotional honesty and opacity.

“I’m interested in an interplay between exposure, and vulnerability, and self protection through cleverness,” she says. “That’s something I was trying to explore moments of confession and moments of emotional expression that are trying to cover themselves up or disguise themselves.” The narrow, granular nature of poetry, she explains, enables that. “I get to show part of a picture, or to show it from an angle.”

Despite her personal style, Hughes’ poems are a testament to precision, each word loaded with as much significance as she can manage. In contrast, she finds the messiness of everyday speech, with its fragmented thoughts and run on sentences, profoundly unsatisfying.

“I could very easily spend all my time analyzing the thing I said at Sharples, [or] what I should have said differently, or what I should have not said. The nice thing about getting to write a poem is that I have control over that.”

Hughes’ impulse to revise means that much of her work centers on going over old poems rather than new works. With the grant, though, she tried to produce more new material. “Part of this summer was getting comfortable with writing things that rambled and that I wouldn’t really want anyone else to see.”

She worked four days a week with the Trevor Project, an organization for suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, and wrote on the weekends.

“That structure was really essential for me,” she says. Although she didn’t find much overlap between her writing at the Project and her poetry, letters to government agencies and legislators require their own neat phrasing, she says almost like poetry. “Obviously, it’s a completely different genre and topic, but it kept me in the practice of writing every day.”

She ended up finishing three complete poems as well as beginning and editing many more pieces.

After graduating high school, Hughes spent a gap year campaigning for gay marriage in Rhode Island before taking her freshman spring off to organize volunteers for an LGBTQ non-discrimination bill in Utah. Afterwards, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to return to college.

“I had a year without school to do stuff I really cared about and that I was pretty good at,” Hughes says. “It was the first time I developed a primary identity aside from ‘student.’” Without another offer, though, she resumed classes.

Hughes, a self-proclaimed copycat, consciously imitates the writing styles of favorite writers like former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, whom Hughes admires for her clever phrasing and confessional tone. She still feels like she’s in the process of trying on others’ styles.

“That doesn’t feel inauthentic to me … I can dress very differently on different days, and all those ways feel like accurate expressions of some part of me at a given time.”

Majoring in English was never a certainty even now, Hughes hasn’t officially declared. She moved between political science, linguistics, and several other fields before deciding in the middle of last year to focus on creative writing out of resignation, she says.

“I came into school knowing that I was ultimately going to be an English major … but that seemed so predictable.”

At one point, Hughes wanted to be an actress. In high school, her class traveled to New York City to meet an off-Broadway star for career advice.

“She told us, ‘Yeah, I worked for years, and then my big break was when I became the face of the Scotch Tape commercial.’” Hughes laughs.

Although she’d like to have her poetry published, she struggles to see a career in it.

“There’s probably a lot of becoming the face of the Scotch Tape commercial that has to happen before publishing a book and after you publish a book. I don’t know [if] that’s something I want to do.”

After graduation, Hughes plans to look for more LGBTQ activism campaigns to work on, whether organizing in the field or writing policy in DC. She worries she might struggle to maintain her habit of writing every day. “I just kind of wonder how adults who work nine to five or longer have time for having food, sustaining relationships doing laundry, all those fun things let alone [maintaining] artistic practices.”

Another dream job? Writing erotica. “I didn’t get a grant for that, though.”

Challenges remain for queer students on campus

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

Kelsey Manning ‘17 was making out with another girl on the dance floor last weekend, much like many other couples, when a male student approached.

“So, can I get a two-for-one?” he asked. Manning and her companion were irritated, but brushed off the encounter. Later in the night, a different male student would attempt to physically insert himself into their interaction, which prompted an angry lecture from Manning’s companion.

While queer students on campus come in many different sexualities and gender identities, students contacted by The Phoenix for this article agreed that Swarthmore is a mostly welcoming and supportive place in which to experiment with one’s sexuality, to come out, or to be queer. However, they each pointed to a unique set of challenges which still confront queer students. These challenges were not limited to the behavior of peers, as in Manning’s case, but also included divides within the queer population, the way in which queer students can feel isolated and burdened at Swarthmore, and a challenging dating and social scene due to a small student body.

Some queer students, such as Kenneson Chen ‘13, found particularly welcoming communities in the form of the Swarthmore Queer Union (SQU) and the Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA). When Chen arrived on campus his freshman year after a lengthy and difficult coming-out process, he immediately joined both groups. “I was just loving what was to me a large amount of queer people who were open and supportive, in most ways, of me,” Chen recounted.

In particular, his participation in SQU helped Chen to tackle the more difficult aspects of his identity. Chen found that SQU provided him with a language through which he could identify as queer, which he feels is a more fitting label for his identity than gay.

SQU has also allowed Chen to become more comfortable with his gender expression. “The people at SQU helped me realize that, yes, I can be a man and still do very unmanly things. Even using the word unmanly has such a negative connotation in our society, and being in SQU has made me realize, fuck that. I don’t need to subscribe to masculine preservation. I’m more comfortable being effeminate now,” Chen explained.

Chen also attends meetings of Colors, a group of queer students of color, and Persuasian, a group for queer Asian students. Chen found Persuasian especially to be extremely nurturing and helpful as a place in which he could share experiences he could not necessarily discuss in SQU or in other communities at Swarthmore. “There are some things that I am not able to talk about, specifically around my identity as a queer person of color, with people who don’t share that experience,” Chen said.

In addition to specifically queer groups, athletic teams may also provide a support system for some queer students in their transition to Swarthmore. Rose Pitkin ’14, who plays varsity softball, feels that her team has created an extremely comfortable environment for her as an out athlete.

“Athletics create an extremely heteronormative and homophobic space, but luckily for me I’ve had teammates that have been really supportive,” she said. She cited the three openly queer players on her squad of fifteen as evidence for a supportive and welcoming environment on the field and in the locker room, which she attributed to the attitudes of coaches, captains, and upperclassmen on the team. “So much of that I think is because we’re open, and the team talks about it, and it’s an okay thing, and so much of that is because of the coach and the precedent the upperclassmen set,” Pitkin explained.

Similarly, Manning has found the women’s rugby team to be a supportive space.

“I think that queer women in sports isn’t something that’s talked a lot about, especially in high school,” said Manning, who swam competitively before arriving at Swarthmore. “I found it pretty oppressive to be a queer woman athlete in high school, and my experience with rugby has shifted that paradigm in a positive way.”

Ultimately, Manning feels that her participation in women’s rugby has helped her to develop the way in which she relates to her queer identity. “I’ve gained a more holistic understanding of how not just to be a queer woman but how to be a woman, who plays rugby, who does environmental activism, who is also queer, who takes pride in that identity, but I’m not demarcated or limited by that identity in a way that I feel like I used to be,” Manning explained.

Most students felt that the broader community of Swarthmore is a largely accepting and welcoming place. Amit Schwalb ’17 feels as though there is a vibrant and visible queer community and that this community has a strong presence. “I haven’t reached out to explicitly queer spaces on campus as much, but probably at least half of my friends are queer and I just kind of use that as my queer space,” he said.

Additionally, Schwalb has enjoyed the degree to which he has perceived queer and straight students as well-integrated on campus. “I just have a lot more straight friends at Swarthmore than I’ve had in a long time,” he said.

Similarly, Manning has also found the non-queer community of Swarthmore to be a comfortable one for queerness. Her main experience of Swarthmore as a positive place to be queer has come in the form of one-on-one conversations with fellow female students. Though these students may not necessarily identify as queer, Manning said, they had had a great deal of queer experiences on campus and were willing to share. “I’ve found that those conversations have been spaces for me to explore what it means to be queer here, through their experiences,” Manning reflected.

Despite these and a host of other positive experiences, queer students still face a number of challenges and have confronted disturbing incidents which raise serious questions about Swarthmore’s inclusivity and safety. When reflecting on her experience from this weekend, Manning was shocked and disturbed by what had happened at the party, as it had not fit with her impression of the campus community. “I thought people at Swarthmore, to be honest, would know better,” she said. “I thought that they would refrain from putting someone in that place or making assumptions about their sexuality.”

Manning acknowledged that this experience was not limited to Swarthmore. “I think it’s just typical of men in our society, assuming that two girls hooking up needs the approval or validation of men,” she said.

Chen has found that there are some spaces on campus which are more comfortable and accepting of queer students than of others. These places can range from the field house, where Chen, on his way to yoga class, sometimes feels that he does not belong in an athletic space, to Sharples. Chen is uncomfortable eating in certain areas of the dining hall due to the homophobic slurs he has heard from mostly male students on campus. “I’ve heard some pretty horrible things … things like hearing the word ‘fag’ or hearing the word ‘gay’ used as an insult or hearing people AIDS-shaming,” Chen said.

Sometimes, Chen feels as though queer students are separated from the rest of the student body. “I have not felt completely safe on campus, especially when things pop up like chalkings which contain hate speech, or when people are attacked on Mertz Field,” Chen said. “There’s this feeling that we are alone, that we have to protect ourselves.”

Chen feels this isolation and division perhaps most acutely in Swarthmore’s reliance on the queer community to provide education around certain issues. He feels that there is an enormous responsibility placed on queer students to educate students about sexual health, sexuality and rape and sexual assault prevention. “When I helped to facilitate ASAP [Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention] workshops, almost every facilitator was queer,” Chen recalled. “That is not something that we should have to do alone. It’s embarrassing that it has to be this way. Queer people should not be the only ones who think about their bodies and sex.”

Chen believes that this burden of education is one which perpetuates an “us vs. them” divide between queer and straight or cis-gendered students, a dynamic with which Chen is extremely uncomfortable. “I know

some queer people who make conscious decisions about their friends because of their sexuality or gender, and that makes me uncomfortable because that is unhealthy,” Chen said.

Manning has also been disappointed by the insularity of the queer community in some academic disciplines. “I think there are certain disciplines that tend to give more or less visibility to queer identity,” she said. Manning recalled that her American Politics class had discussed varying interest groups in terms of race, ethnicity and religion, but had not mentioned sexuality at all.

On the other hand, Manning’s LGBTQ Linguistics First-Year Seminar is an exclusively queer space. “There are definitely academic spaces which promote the exploration of sexuality, but even with that, I find that the space is limited,” she said. While the absence of non-queer students was initially comforting for Manning and provided a space in which she could be honest, she feels that the group is self-selecting in a limiting fashion. “The class only attracted queer people, even though the study of LGBTQ linguistics has implications for straight people as well,” Manning said. “It shouldn’t just be a queer discipline studied by queer people.”

Chen also pointed out that there are divides within the queer community itself. While he has never felt alienated by the queer community, Chen has felt that some queer students have been less than entirely inclusive of others, particularly at SQU meetings. “I feel sad that others aren’t comfortable or have had negative experiences in SQU,” Chen said. “I understand SQU will never be for everyone but I would like for it to be a place where if you identify as queer or if you are questioning you are unquestionably welcomed. I am ashamed and embarrassed as a former leader of SQU that people do not feel that way.”

Abigail Henderson ’14 commented on the nature of specifically queer spaces such as SQU and on some of the challenges she has confronted within these spaces. “SQU has almost always felt like an inclusive space for me: people care about each other, listen to what people have to say, and reach out to other people,” Henderson said via email.

However, Henderson has felt at times as though some of the stories or jokes shared during SQU meetings reinforce binaries and generalizations which are not true to life, and has been bothered by this experience. “It seems that when in queer spaces we often perpetuate generalizations and stereotypes that we claim to want to fight against,” Henderson said. This has created problems for Henderson in feeling as though she can claim a space as her own. “I don’t know how to challenge generalizations or insults that are tossed around as jokes among queer people without feeling like I am taking something away from their/our safe space. And that’s something I struggle with a lot, especially in the Swarthmore community,” she said.

In terms of developing alternative queer communities, Pitkin expressed desire for a group of people to discuss the relationship between their queer identities and their status as athletes, and the unique set of challenges which these combined roles can present. “I would love for there to be a group for queer athletes, because so many of the issues that queer athletes face are so different from what you might face on campus — you have to go to the locker room, to other schools, you have to form really intimate relationships with your teammates, these bonds with them which are really, really, super trusting … and at that point your identity becomes part of that bond,” Pitkin said. “It would be nice to have a group of people to talk about that with regularly and to work towards creating a more inclusive athletic space.”

The quality of queer social life can also present a challenge for some students, and may be a problem which is unique to Swarthmore, due to the school’s small size. When Chen first came to Swarthmore, he believed that he would have many options for romantic and sexual partners and that he would eventually have a long-term boyfriend. As sophomore year rolled around, however, this appeared to be an increasingly distant possibility. “You realize how few queer people are actually on campus, how many potential partners are not there, and that was very disheartening my sophomore year,” Chen said. While he acknowledged that dating could be difficult for straight students as well, Chen felt as though queer students often had more difficulty, citing a much lower relative number of committed queer couples.

Chen chalked up this dearth of potential partners to Swarthmore’s size. “I think there are just not enough people here to really support a vibrant or healthy social life,” he said. He added that because of size, drama within the queer community was often magnified and could cause students who had been romantically or sexually involved and then broken up to dissociate from the group, which Chen found upsetting.

Manning has also found herself frustrated with the size of the queer community, though this has mostly manifested for her in social situations, such as at SQU’s annual Queer-Trans Party (QTP), entitled “Gay Old Party” (GOP). “There was such a lack of turnout at the GOP, and I found the lack of people surprising,” Manning said. She felt that most students she had met tended to be open about at least their exploration of their sexual identity, but that something about the GOP as an exclusively or strongly-demarcated gay space had turned people off. “I didn’t really understand why that was and that was kind of disappointing,” she said.

Schwalb feels as though Swarthmore is an opening and welcome space relative to the rest of the world, but believes this does not mean the school or the student body are absolved of a responsibility to change. For example, Schwalb said that although he was happy that there was a sense among his peers that they should ask for and clarify gender pronouns, fellow students often used incorrect gender pronouns to refer to or address him. “The world is a really shitty place to exist as a trans person and in a lot of ways so is Swarthmore,” Schwalb said. “Just because it’s good relative to the world doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on it.”

While supportive communities and healing experiences can be found on at Swarthmore, it is clear that queer students still face a host of challenges and problems, both within exclusively queer spaces and within the broader campus community. Obviously, Swarthmore still has a long way to go towards being a completely inclusive and positive place for queer students.

Schwalb believes that the path to creating this place is to ensure that the each member of the campus community commits to examining heteronormative and cisnormative impulses within themselves. He concluded, “To actually have a campus community that really engages with questions of gender and sexuality in a challenging way and commits to challenging themselves in that way — that’s how you create a really actually inclusive culture.”

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