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Penn QSA is determined to reinvent themselves this year by developing a stronger connection with the greater Philadelphia queer community and introducing new projects.

Credit: John Ortega

Penn’s Queer Student Alliance, the oldest LGBTQ support group of its kind on campus, has expanded in size and role this year with a new structure and heightened focus on outreach to Philadelphia.

“Last year, there weren’t that many events because truthfully QSA was not going to be a thing anymore,” said current QSA External Affairs Chair and Nursing junior Nina Solis. This year, the 33-year-old organization has worked to cultivate allies and new members throughout the greater Philadelphia queer community. Part of the group’s mission is to create safe environments for those who feel uncomfortable at typical social events at Penn because of their gender or sexual identity.

“The Philadelphia community is huge for queer culture,” Solis said. Although discussions about the larger Philadelphia community occurred in the past within QSA, the idea of really engaging with the resources for queer people in Philadelphia came with the transition to the current board. QSA’s new outings committee is planning ways for students to engage in Philadelphia’s resources for the queer community, like walking tours of the Gayborhood.

The new QSA board set out to achieve their goal of broadening the group’s reach by creating a new structure of smaller committees for special interests within QSA. These committees, which organize outings throughout the city and plan events with food, provide leadership roles for more members and allow them space to think creatively about projects.

QSA chair and College senior Jess Faust worked in conjunction with the new board and the LGBT Center to create QSA’s new structure. This structure is “going well especially in terms of external involvement” from people who are not formally on the board, Faust said.

Current Lambda Alliance Chair and 2015 QSA board member Ian Jeong noted how the expansion of leadership positions within QSA this year has allowed many underclassmen to hold leadership positions for the first time in recent QSA history. “The new faces on the QSA board brings a lot of energy and a sense of vibrancy to the group,” he said. “The new QSA’s genuine love for the group translates to them putting more effort and thought into their programming.”

Compared to last year, the number of events hosted by QSA has already increased. So far this semester, QSA has also hosted events ranging from their annual formal Affair to more informal gatherings like game nights. There was also a Halloween-themed event called “Swalloween,” which QSA co-hosted alongside the Lambda Alliance, Wharton Alliance and the Penn Queer and Asian Society. So far this semester, QSA has also hosted events ranging from their annual formal to more casual gatherings like game nights.

“I personally think it’s very hard to meet other queer people in the community,” Solis said. She added that some members of the queer community at Penn find more typical social events like fraternity parties stressful or uncomfortable. They are drawn to QSA events because they are created to help queer students feel comfortable at Penn. “It is such a rarity to know that you are going to be totally accepted when you go somewhere,” Solis said. “At QSA events, we all know we’ll be supported.”