Queer and transgender union: a vision for collaboration

An LGBTQ+ organization on campus is re-branding to better represent its membership, place on campus and to attract more participation.

    The sexual orientation-focused group has changed its name from Vision to the Queer/Trans Student Union, coinciding with the establishment of a new resource center, which is being moved from the Math Science building to the Union, and a new executive board.

    Elle Fullenkamp, the outreach chair of QTSU, explained some of the reasons the name change occurred at the beginning of this semester.

    One of the most important reasons was the older name’s lack of description. Fullenkamp said the name Vision had been used since the organization’s founding in the 70s because “it was purposefully ambiguous.” This was done to protect members in a time when LGBTQ+ people often faced strong discrimination and prejudice.

    However, she said because changes in contemporary American society have generated a greater acceptance of queer and transgender identities, the group decided the need for stealth was gone.

    Vice president of QTSU, Darlene Johns, added, “It just feels like the right time to do this … in this political climate.” She said the new name gave the group a more overt presence on campus and would allow members to have a greater voice about issues.

    Fullenkamp also mentioned a desire for the organization to be given a more well-known place within the network of student groups as a factor for the re-branding. She said name could help place them on the same level as other minority-based student organizations, like the Latino Student Union or the Black Student Union, in terms of prominence and visibility.

    The opportunity of generating a coalition of minority student groups was an especially important reason for this part of the change. “All of our oppressions are connected,” Fullenkamp said, adding such issues could be better addressed with the support of a larger group of students.

    “The ultimate goal is a community,” said Johns. “It’s all about building community with ourselves.” She said the possible collaboration could help ensure resources needed by minority groups are readily available and that students feel more enabled to create identity-based groups.

    While the concept of a name change for the group was a popular choice in the organization, the actual choosing of the name generated some contention.

    Fullenkamp said they chose between two new names to represent their membership: Queer/Trans Student Union or merely the Queer Student Union. There was some discussion about which one better represented the union’s goals. However, she said the current name was eventually chosen because it “[centered] voices of our most vulnerable members.”

    She also said the organization opted not to utilize the LGBTQ+ acronym or extensions of it in the new name, as it can give different identities a higher place in the “order,” giving the appearance some groups are more important than others.

    Johns added, to ensure the organization supported how it would be represented, “We voted as a whole body which one would be more appropriate.”

    QTSU, under its new name, will be hosting various activities in light of October being LGBT History month. Oct. 11 through Oct. 18, under the “Coming Out Week” title, includes various presentations and a drag show at the Ziggy’s restaurant and activities for National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

    It also offers various means for education about queer and transgender identities. One such mean is “The Panel Program,” which invites individuals in the gender or sexual identity minority to speak about their experiences. Such panels are unique in that the presenters are encouraged to make their true opinions heard — the speeches are established to not represent the organization itself and are encouraged to not leave the confines of the presentation. Audience members are also encouraged to ask questions they normally would not or should not in a normal context. As long as they are polite, all questions are welcome.

    Faculty advisor to the organization, Katie Stygles, said she believes the group’s executive board will help the organization due to their greater use of broad ideas. “Our leadership team is really dynamic and creative,” she said.

    The QTSU meets every Tuesday at 9 p.m. in Room 107 of Hanna Hall, but the leaders say they will be moving into the Student Union next semester. Meetings are open to everybody.