Aiming to affirm and support LGBT students at Grand Valley State University, the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center hosted “Queer the Air” Monday, Oct. 10 as students shared experiences of personal identity and embraced the arts.
Held once a semester in the LGBT Resource Center, students are invited to read poetry and other spoken performance pieces. This year, “Queer the Air” was held in honor of National Coming Out Day, which celebrates the coming out process for LGBT people.
“National Coming Out Day is a recognition and celebration of LGBT identities and visibility,” said Marla Wick, assistant director of the center. “The idea of coming out, and of there being a closet that one needs to ‘come out’ of, only makes sense because we are all otherwise presumed to be straight and cisgender. LGBT people are in all of our communities, and this day celebrates their presence and importance in everyone’s lives.
“(Queer the Air) gives students a platform to express themselves creatively and authentically in a vibrant and supportive environment.”
This event, along with other organizations in relation to the LGBT Resource Center, creates a strong sense of community between the performers and observers. Wick said marginalized voices are allowed to be heard in a safe space.
“This event definitely provides a form of community for LGBT students,” Wick said. “Students who perform or participate in this event as audience members get to appreciate not only the amazing amount of talent and creativity in their community, but also the wonderfully tangible way these students support each other.
“We get some food and really encourage a creative and warm community environment focused on self-expression and validation.”
Ezra Smith, student worker in the LGBT Resource Center, said public events like “Queer the Air” allow for a broader audience other than only students who frequent the center.
“It definitely brings out a lot of people we don’t see on a daily basis, especially with us being queer, our community can be very small because not many folks are out,” Smith said. “It’s not just the open mic aspect of it, but even when we’re all just sitting down and listening, we’re reacting, watching other people react and bonding over those moments.”
Alongside events like “Queer the Air,” the LGBT Resource Center offers a myriad of services to the community, as well as those who are not affiliated with GVSU but are interested in the materials the center provides.
“We provide support to students, faculty and staff on campus as well as community members who contact us for resources, education or referrals. We offer a safer space on campus for students to gather and be in community with one another, and support a number of student groups,” Wick said.
Additionally, Wick said the center focuses on outreach and training across the campus and West Michigan community as an effort toward improving the cultural climate for LGBT people.