Queer Straight Alliance is being revived by Anthony Chiarenza ’18, Kate Musen ’18 and Kate Collins ’18.
In the last two years, QSA has had no presence on campus and only more exclusive groups (i.e. Swarthmore Queer Union, Picante, PersuAsian, Colors, QTC, and Ace of Clubs) have functioned effectively. To attend meetings run by most of these groups, students need to identify with a particular gender, sexual orientation or race.
In the last few semesters, the leaders of QSA have either studied abroad or graduated, leaving the group without a leader.
“The seniors have said that QSA is taking a nap and our goal is to wake [it] up and restart it,” Musen explained.
The goal of the new QSA is not to replace the other similarly-interested groups on campus. According to Musen – who is also a board member of SQU – these groups fill a vital role at Swarthmore by allowing LGBT students to have a safe space to talk, and to address their needs.
Chiarenza hopes to bring a new activism-focused QSA group on campus.
“Right now, we don’t have a group that is focused on activism and that’s open to all students,” he said. “Having an open group on campus where anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity can join and be active with queer issues where they can go out and make change is very important.”
Collins felt similarly, citing the groups separate legacy from existing organizations, “[SQU and others] have a history of being closed within the IC, [Intercultural Center] and this one will historically be open. To me it’s a space where people don’t have to focus on their identity, but can act and help others and make a change.”
For some, the most appealing aspect of QSA is that it is open to all students. This holds for national organization as well. QSA’s website reads, “QSA is the main vehicle for queer activism on campus, and is open to all students. QSA also sponsors open social events, such as movie nights, and seeks to promote discussion and awareness of queer issues on campus.”
For Jay Wu ‘15, a board member of SQU who graduated last spring, the renewal of the QSA is a good sign for the college’s queer community. “During my first year at Swarthmore, it was the main site for advocacy and activism – like getting more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and raising money for a trans and queer youth center that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy,” they said. “Unfortunately, many of the people involved in QSA that year either graduated or became more involved in other campus organizations, so QSA effectively ceased to exist after the fall of 2012. I’m really happy that there’s enough energy within trans, queer, and allied communities now to breathe new life into it.”
Dominic Sankowsky ‘18, a current member of PersuAsian, noted that the QSA would create space for students who are less public about their gender and sexuality to be a part of the queer community on campus. “I’d say the most important reason for QSA to exist is for people who aren’t out and are also uncomfortable being in a closed space like SQU,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to be involved with queer life at Swat and be around other queer and trans* people without having to fear that they’re making a statement about their identity to others.”
In general, QSA would like to work on micro and macro levels around campus. “The idea is that we would be having people work on different projects but having everyone within the organization of QSA support each other toward a more common goal of increasing rights and access and facilitation of discussion,” said Musen.
In addition, a long-term goal of QSA is to combine with similar groups in the Tri-co and other colleges, however, as Musen explained, the group’s immediate focus is to determine what is attainable for this year. For the time being, the group will continue to hold open meetings on Sundays at 3:30 in the Intercultural Center in order to get a sense of campus needs and ways to affect change.