Rainbow flag | Photo by Markus Spiske | Pexels.com
Rainbow Alliance is a student organization on campus dedicated to the celebration of LGBTQA+ people and the discussion of queer issues.
The organization gives the LGBTQA+ community a place to feel safe and comfortable on campus, allowing them to be who they are while meeting people who share similar struggles.
“Rainbow Alliance, when school is in session, holds regular meetings that each have themes about the LGBTQ+ community,” said Lane Dawson, a member of Rainbow Alliance. “Some that come to mind are Coming Out Week, different days of visibility, and days dedicated to different parts of queer history. They also provide LGBTQ+ specific campus resources to anyone who needs them, as well as hosting different large scale events, such as their annual Queer Prom.”
They also give students a voice and a platform to express themselves. Advocating for change on campus is a big part of the organization.
Some of the biggest changes on campus they advocate include all-gender bathrooms, name changes in university records for transgender students and gender inclusive housing options.
Rainbow Alliance is also trying to get more training for staff and a place on WINGS that displays pronouns.
For many members, like Mariah Paynter, who is now the internal affairs director, the organization has taught them a lot and given them friends and a close knit community.
“It really feels like a family,” said Paynter. “We all know each other and enjoy getting to talk. Everyone is so friendly and supportive and I feel comfortable talking about almost anything.”
A safe space
The organization has provided an environment where members can feel safe to ask questions and be themselves.
It’s no secret that the LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination, which is one of the main reasons having a safe space on campus is so important.
Dawson identifies as biromantic, which to her means that she could see herself being romantically attracted to anyone, but sexually attracted to no one. Both of these labels set her a part and make her a target for discrimination.
“On occasion when people learned I was asexual they would assure me that I would eventually be sexually attracted to someone, and people have offered to “change my mind,’” said Dawson. “People have also infantilized me for my sexuality, saying I’m ‘so cute and innocent’ or ‘Just a really late bloomer.’ On the front of my biromanticism, people have made the usual comments heard about the bisexual community. I’ve been told that I’m ‘being greedy,’ and ‘need to pick one gender.’”
Drew Gillum, president of Rainbow Alliance, identifies as queer, transgender and nonbinary.
“Just in general, a lot of people aren’t huge fans of trans people. I kind of avoid it a lot. Personally, I have the ability to pass as a woman and go through life as that, but some people don’t have that ability,” said Gillum.
Gillum says they have not experienced a huge amount of discrimination aside from feeling like they cannot be themselves around everyone.
“A disproportionate number of our members identify as transgender because I feel like those are the people that are more likely to be trying to find community,” said Gillum.
A lot of issues transgender people face include being misgendered by their professors, getting their name changed on their ID and not being allowed into the correct gendered housing that they identify with.
Some of the struggles that the LGBTQA+ community faces are ones that may not be as easily seen from the outside.
“One of the main issues we face is not knowing who we can be ourselves around and being uncomfortable when meeting new people,” said Dominic Wenrick, a member of Rainbow Alliance.
On top of facing discrimination and not feeling as it they can be themselves, some even face financial struggles because of their identity, according to Dawson.
Oftentimes members of this community find themselves financially unstable because they are estranged from their families and supporting themselves or facing difficult student loans.
Another issue they face is making their voices heard, something that Rainbow Alliance helps with tremendously.
“Queer college students can sometimes have difficulty being heard when speaking out about different issues because of our age, our gender or sexuality, or our status as students,” said Lane. “While this is an issue, Rainbow actively creates a community to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ students to help them be heard.”
Pride month is all about celebrating the ability to be yourself and supporting everyone in the LGBTQA+ community.
“To me, pride month is about being out, loud, and proud, and supporting all of my queer siblings who may or may not be out,” said Dawson.
This month though, members of Rainbow Alliance have worked extra hard to make sure that they are not only advocating for the LGBTQA+ community, but the Black community as well.
“There are more important things happening in the world right now with the Black Lives Matter movement… so I’ve been putting more energy into that,” said Gillum.
“I am celebrating it by standing with my community and standing up for our rights. Instead of going to pride, I’ve been educating myself on what the administration is doing to our rights,” said Paynter.
Others are standing with the BLM movement and trying to recognize the needs of the community in the present moment.
What to know about the LGBTQA+ community
Members of Rainbow Alliance want everyone to know it is okay to ask questions, it’s actually encouraged.
“We have members from all different backgrounds happy to answer any questions about being LGBTQ+. Even if you think they’re silly or weird to ask, you can and we’ll answer to the best of our ability,” said Dawson. “We’re there to celebrate and learn about being queer, and we would love to include those who don’t know a lot yet.”
People can help the organization by attending meetings, raising awareness for the club and participating in events.
“While the virus certainly put a damper on social interaction, there has always been an attitude of ‘the more the merrier’ when it comes to college clubs, and Rainbow is no exception,” said Dawson. “The best way to support Rainbow is to participate with them.”
“I want people to know that we are people just like you,” said Paynter. “Everyone wants rights and respect, everyone deserves that.”
Rainbow Alliance and it’s members welcome anyone to their meetings, encourage questions, and exist to provide a community for anyone looking.