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Credit: Maddy Strohm

FGLIQ, a new student group that is the first of its kind at Penn, is working to solidify a space for first-generation, low-income students who identify as LGBTQ.

Second-year Graduate School of Education student Sarah Simi Cohen said she formed the group last fall because it is difficult for students who identify as both FGLI and LGBTQ to feel like they fit into spaces that are not specifically designed to understand both aspects of their identity. Since then, FGLIQ has hosted several social events and presented the group to members of Lambda Alliance, the undergraduate LGBTQ umbrella group.

Second-year Graduate School of Education student Sarah Simi Cohen. (Photo from Sarah Simi Cohen)

“I’m not fitting in my FGLI community because I’m queer and they don’t understand my queerness," Cohen said. "But then when I’m in my queer community, they don’t get my first-gen. or my low-income identity."

The group is now made up of about 35 undergraduate and graduate students who regularly meet in the LGBT Center. 

LGBT Center Director Erin Cross said there is a large concentration of FGLI students who identify as LGBTQ at Penn, and that FGLIQ is likely the first student group of its kind on a college campus.

College junior Amber Auslander, who is an undergraduate representative in FGLIQ, said the group wants to grow their membership by hosting campus events, such as movie nights and FGLIQ student panels. Auslander added that although the group does not have an executive board now, they plan to create a more formal board over the summer. 

Cohen’s research for her master’s thesis also centers on the experiences of FGLI queer students and how higher education institutions work to serve this community. 

College junior and undergraduate representative in FGLIQ, Amber Auslander. (Photo from Amber Auslander)

“What I wanted out of FGLIQ was awareness, advocacy, and community, and I think all three of those have been accomplished,” Cohen said.

LGBT Center Associate Director Tiffany Thompson, who serves as an advisor for FGLIQ, said the group provides "a great model" for a space where students do not need to separate their core identities.

“Queer and trans folks sometimes need a little bit of an extra space to be queer and trans and be themselves in that way," Thompson said. "We already know that, but we forget. There is more than just ethnicity or socioeconomic status."