“Big Queer Lunch” offers safe space

GVL / Emily Frye
Brody Cragg (left), Sean Diaz (left center), Annika Gray (right center), and Levi Ryfiak (right)

GVL / Emily Frye Brody Cragg (left), Sean Diaz (left center), Annika Gray (right center), and Levi Ryfiak (right)

Spencer Miller

Swarms of new students have finally started to move in and returning students are coming back to Grand Valley State University. Whether they are first-year students or fourth-year students, something that every student understands is trying to build a sense of community during their first few weeks in a new place.

To help kick off the school year, the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center is hosting the “Big Queer Lunch,” a series of welcome lunches offered during the first week of classes for new and returning students.

Scott Burden, a graduate assistant in the LGBT Resource Center, is involved with planning the lunches. Burden and his colleagues coordinate the menus and promote the lunches. He will be attending to help build community, which he says is the main purpose of the lunches.

“We want these lunches to welcome students to campus and introduce them to our space,” Burden said. “Students can come in, grab food and leave, or they can sit, relax, get to know fellow Lakers and learn more about our programs and services.”

Burden said that the lunches were specifically created to welcome queer and trans students to campus and that is one of the benefits of having a welcome lunch geared towards the LGBT community.

“It welcomes back our returning students and shows them that we are excited for the year and provides us an opportunity to introduce new students to the queer community at GV,” he said.

Though the lunches are put on by the LGBT Resource Center, they are open to anyone who is interested.

“It’s to build a sense of community, but we don’t want to separate students. We want everyone to come together and build a community as students at Grand Valley,” said Andrew Collier, a student who works in the LGBT Resource Center. “I think that having a lunch and sharing food is a good way of doing that.”

While the ultimate goal of the welcome lunches is to build community, Collier says that it does much more. The lunches allow students to get to know each other, and it provides students an opportunity to explore their self-identity.

“For a lot of students who I expect to attend, this is their first time at college and this may be their first time away from their parents, where they can really start to talk about their sexuality, explore their gender identity and develop their own sense of identity away from home,” Collier said. “I think it’s important that we provide a space for them to do that and also build a community with others who are here to do the same.”

Burden agrees, saying that the lunches aim to provide a safe space for students.

“Students desire a safe space to eat, especially in those first few weeks on campus when new students are still navigating campus, finding a safe space, and looking to become involved,” Burden said. “We hope that these lunches provide that space for students to be safe, eat some food and enjoy some great company.”

The “Big Queer Lunch” offers an environment to do just this at the beginning of the year, but the LGBT Resource Center offers other events throughout the school year.

“I realize that it may be an intimidating place to walk into, having never been into a space like that before, but it’s certainly a space that’s meant to be welcoming,” Colliers said. “My experience has been just that. I have been welcomed every time that I have been in here.”

The lunches are free to all students and will be held during the first week of classes. Students can expect to find a variety of food from day to day that accommodates all diets, including vegan and vegetarian options.

“This will be a fun, relaxed event with music in the background, a great place to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, and enjoy one another’s company,” Burden said.

For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc or visit the LGBT Resource Center in Room 1161 of the Kirkhof Center on weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.