The Importance of Queer Spaces

This semester, I believe we have fulfilled the task of Making the Tripod Gay Again. Our Editorial Board all identifies somewhere along the LGBTQ+ acronym, and we have increasingly more editors, writers and coverage that fall into that category. As the Tripod recruits more LGBTQ+ writers and reports on the gay community (like in this special edition), I have truly started to appreciate the importance of gay spaces on campus, especially at a school like Trinity. 

By a “school like Trinity,” I mean that sometimes this place feels like it is divided into two worlds: Camp Trin, and everyone else (let’s work on making a name for the second world, please). Camp Trin doesn’t have a specific definition, but many view it as the typically white, upper class exclusive party world, made up of Greek Life, athletics and those adjacent who generally adhere to the status quo. “Everyone else” is made up of the people who don’t fit into Camp Trin, who are usually rejected from the Vernon/Allen scene and prefer to spend time elsewhere. I would say that most of the gay community on Trinity’s campus falls into “everyone else,” and that can be difficult when LGBTQ+ students already struggle to accept their own identities. This is where the gay spaces come in. 

By gay spaces, I mean physical locations on campus that typically attract the “everyone else” world, and are led and frequented by LGBTQ+ students. Of course, the Queer Resource Center and its associated groups like  Encouraging Respect for Other Sexualities (EROS) are explicit safe spaces for queer students. The QRC is an incredibly important resource on campus, but the queer spaces I want to discuss in this editorial are more “unofficial” ones. For example, the Underground Coffeehouse or The Mill (and as time rolls on, hopefully the Tripod). But what makes these spaces different from more explicit safe spaces like the QRC, and what is their role in campus life? 

It seems that “official” places like the QRC and “unofficial” places like the Underground or The Mill work together and operate in different corners of queerness on campus. While I have only attended a few meetings in the QRC during my time as a student, I understand that it provides ample resources for queer students, organizes official programming like Trans Day of Remembrance and acts as an oasis for students to in exist peacefully. However, I know many members of the LGBTQ+ community at Trinity who have never attended a meeting there or even stepped foot in the building. I do not see this as a failing of the QRC, but reflective of other welcoming spaces on campus that LGBTQ+ students enjoy. 

An important aspect of a queer space, official or not, is what is done and discussed in the space itself. Does the space allow for the exploration and conversation of queer identity? Is this exploration not just allowed, but encouraged? This can come in many forms, not just the explicit bringing up of identity. The two main spaces outside of the QRC that I see as queer spaces – again, the UG and The Mill – accomplish this quite well, and normalize the daily gay experience that the more institutionalized QRC cannot. I think of the Underground’s whiteboard, which mostly recently asked which artist should perform at Spring Weekend – many of the artists listed were queer. I think of shows at The Mill that bring in queer artists, who sing about their identity, but also a million other things. Queer students, staff and faculty need a Queer Resource Center, but they also need a place to drink their coffee and a venue to dance to live music (two very gay activities). 

The comparison of these different spaces brings up a necessary question regarding queerness in everyday life: where is the line between safety and normalization? At a place like the QRC, students are guaranteed that oasis, along with tangible resources for their specific identity. However, at some level this sacrifices gay visibility and normalization; those not in the gay community are not interacting with students with different sexualities. At a place like the Underground, which is a gay space more so by connotation, queer students are queer alongside everyone else being who they are, even though that visibility requires certain safety sacrifices.

I do not think that we need to choose between explicit or implicit gay spaces; this is exactly what I think we should avoid. Fund the QRC and encourage students to utilize that space, while also encouraging other places on campus where queer students feel comfortable. The fact that there are only three prominent locations that I can think of as queer spaces says a lot – let’s increase that number (also recognizing the queer-safe spaces of professors, staff members and dormitories). 

To the people that have never considered the presence of queer spaces on campus, this editorial might sound silly. I encourage you to interrogate why you frequent certain places more than others. Where do you feel uncomfortable on campus? Why do you feel that way? In order for Trinity to feel less like two separate worlds, we must embark on this work together. 

To all the queer students on campus, the Tripod sees you and welcomes you. While Pride month is not until June, we understand the meaning and importance of recognizing queerness on this campus, and will continue to praise our LGBTQ+ friends and siblings as loud as we can. 

-OPS

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