A banner on Locust Walk and scores of flyers have been announcing it. The arrival of Bisexual Gay Lesbian Transgender Awareness Days has been helping to celebrate it. And a recent front page article in the DP discussed an egregious attack against it. A few months ago, the LGBA dedicated one of its meetings to discussing how to improve the organization and better serve the gay community at Penn. From that one meeting came a flurry of activity and a level of excitement LGBA members hadn't witnessed in years. Through intense discussion, we began reshaping the organization, from the layout of its meetings to the structure of the organization itself to the scope of its goals and purposes. We were, in essence, reinventing the organization and aiming to make it more successful than it had ever been. We quickly agreed that the "new" organization, renamed the Queer Student Alliance, must retain the LGBA's dedication to providing support, comfort and friendship for all LGBT students. As a matter of fact, we want to meet these needs with a degree of success the LGBA never attained. The QSA offers a place where queer students can meet new friends (and let's face it, new more-than-friends) and find social outlets otherwise lacking on campus. Perhaps most importantly, students questioning their sexuality or struggling with coming-out issues can find safety and comfort within the QSA. Members of the straight community interested in or even wrestling with queer issues can come to us as well. But unlike the LGBA, the QSA will also act as a forum for student activists interested in making changes at Penn and calling attention to national LGBT issues. Actually, until the QSA, there hadn't really been a place for queer students who wanted to work together to promote visibility, educate the Penn community about LGBT issues and champion gay rights. But that is exactly what we want to offer now. Considering how thoroughly we redefined the LGBA, it only seemed appropriate to adopt a new name for the organization. But it wasn't just a matter of addressing all of the changes we had made; we wanted a name that would be more inclusive of all people who don't consider themselves heterosexual, one that wouldn't force us to define ourselves rigidly under the labels of "bisexual," "lesbian," "gay" or "transgender." Some people have suggested that the word "queer" carries too many negative connotations, but being aware of how language changes, and the need to reclaim words intended to be offensive, we thought our choice would be positive. A few others have suggested that by choosing "queer," we have postured ourselves as radical and in-your-face. But all we truly wanted was to find the least provincial and restrictive name possible. Certainly arriving at "queer" wasn't a simple process; we debated arduously and considered what other college organizations were doing with their own names. It turns out that among others, Harvard, Swarthmore, NYU, Brown and Columbia have all embraced "queer" as well. But infinitely more important than what we choose to call ourselves are the fundamental changes we have brought to the campus organization for queer and questioning students. Mixing a support network and a comfort zone with a forum for passionate activists is daring and new but necessary and important. Incidents such as the hate e-mail the QSA recently received prove how crucial our presence on campus is, as well as the need to educate the Penn community about who we are. The QSA is still in its formative stages, but it is exciting and dynamic, and we invite everyone to come to our meetings and become involved. And for the people who wish to stand on the sidelines, all we ask is that you give us as much support as you can. As idealistic as it may sound, we want to make Penn a better place for everyone, and we need your help to be successful.Comments powered by Disqus
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