On a large university campus, it is easy for unique identities to get lost in the crowd. But the University of Wisconsin’s LGBT Campus Center is hosting a month of events to highlight the different personalities on campus and to help foster support from allies around the community.
The LGBT Campus Center provides a variety of resources to students on campus, including discussion groups for different identities, leadership programs, mentor programs and guest speakers, RJ Hayes, LGBT Campus Center’s events and program coordinator and a senior at UW, said.
For Hayes, the center has provided a welcoming place within the broader campus community.
“[It’s] just a very friendly environment,” Hayes said. “The people that are inside — I’ve always felt comfortable to just go in and talk about what’s on my mind and just be myself, which is very nice [at] a big university like this.”
Throughout April, the LGBTQ Campus Center will be hosting “Out and About Month,” where they will hold events to promote their community and the center’s services on campus.
“Every April is meant to be a fleet of programs and really vibrant events that celebrate LGBTQ life and experiences. So we try to get queer and trans voices front and center,” Katherine Charek Briggs, assistant director of the LGBT Campus Center, said.
The center tries to present a broad variety of events to highlight the lives and experiences of all the diverse students in their large community and make sure everyone can find something for them, Briggs said.
Hayes first became involved with the LGBT Campus Center through events like these and was attracted to the environment the center provided.
Hayes said the leadership program Queer Emerging Leaders Program focuses on building positive leadership skills within a social justice framework. The idea of social justice is also part of the mission of holding events during Out and About.
“Identity can get lost on such a big campus,” Hayes said. “[These events] talk about different identities — being queer and [of] color, [or being queer] and having diverse abilities.”
Hayes said the campus may lack awareness about the different identities within the LGBT community.
Hayes hopes the Out and About Month events will inspire students to show their support and learn how to become better allies for LGBT students.
“My personal definition of ‘ally’ would be someone who tries to understand where I’m coming from and doesn’t go off of these deeply engrained stereotypes,” Hayes said. “An ally … puts in the effort to learn how to handle situations and [fight] micro-aggressions.”
Hayes learned how to become an ally with certain groups within the LGBT community and said it is important to learn how to have informed dialogue and conversation about these things.
Out and About’s events range from a drag show with a former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant to hosting recently published author and activist Janet Mock.
Hayes said the events not only promote the services and opportunities for students that want to get involved in the LGBT Campus Center, but also look to increase awareness about LGBT life and help people become more informed and understanding about the issues.
Rachael Lallensack contributed reporting to this article.