The Queer Ladies at Penn are making their presence known.
Through a new student group formed in conjunction with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center and the Women’s Center, women who identify as queer are aiming to counteract the fact that there “wasn’t really a huge female presence in the LGBT community at large,” said College freshman Sarah Hendry, one of the group’s founders.
Queer Ladies at Penn began as a private Facebook group started by College senior Sydney Baloue, who was inspired by the community of queer women she connected with while abroad in Paris last year. When she returned to Penn, she felt that “there are a lot of queer women, but we just don’t see them.”
“There are so many men who are out and active” at Penn that women tend to be overshadowed in the LGBT community, College junior and co-founder Meg Hlousek added.
The Facebook group — initially composed of 13 women — “created a sense of community specifically with queer women,” Baloue said. The necessity of such a community is often overlooked, as people assume that because both queer men and women are attracted to people of the same gender, they may be grouped together.
“While non-heterosexual men and women have many common and overlapping interests,” co-director of the Women’s Studies Program Demie Kurz said, “one of the axes of difference is gender.”
As members of Queer Ladies at Penn invited more women into the private group — which now has around 100 members — interest in developing the group on Penn’s campus grew. “We wanted to make more of a presence that people could search for,” Hendry said.
However, while members of the group were enthusiastic about bringing their community to campus, they didn’t want “the hierarchy of a board” and preferred to keep the group more casual and social, Hendry added.
The group now operates with the website, queerpenn.com, as its public presence, and the Facebook group as a way “to make sure people feel comfortable and have a safe space,” Baloue added.
While in the process of questioning her sexuality, College junior Sarah Rosenbach said Queer Ladies at Penn “has been a good way to learn more about what queer culture is about and what it means to be queer at Penn.”
Baloue emphasized that the goal of the group is to provide “a sense of visibility but also a sense of belonging,” adding that without an established presence of queer women on campus, people looking for such a community were left wondering if there is a place for them.
“Once you see someone like you though,” Baloue said, “it makes you feel like you’re part of a community, and what you say and how you feel matters.”