“I don’t do facts, I do emotion,” said James Love III ’22 as he, with rainbow fan in hand, took to the podium at ‘shOUT’s Chapel Talk last month. “I’m here to just tell you: you’re still you. You’re okay.”
October is LGBTQ+ History Month, and ‘shOUT, Wabash’s gay-straight alliance, has taken the opportunity to organize a series of events that highlight queer culture and history. But more than this, the group has sought to remind Wabash scholars that we are all connected, even on a campus of all-male students, to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer.
At the end of September, ‘shOUT began their celebrations with the first ever Chapel Talk dedicated to queer history and identity at Wabash. Alumnus Joe Mount ’15, director of development at Indiana Youth Group, spoke first and gave a brief overview of some key moments in queer history. He then handed the floor over to three current students: Love, who gave a personal account of coming out; Zachariah Alvarado ‘23, who spoke on the importance of recognizing LGBTQ+ identities; and Joseph Julian ’22, who talked about finding one’s self and community.
“On a campus that thrives on conversation and relationships, LGBTQ+ people must be a part of that narrative: both in voice and in topic.”– Elijah Weddington ‘22
“There are indeed many times in life it becomes necessary to adjust to a new set of circumstances, whether it’s enrolling in a college or university, starting a new profession, becoming part of your boyfriend or girlfriend’s family, or moving to a new town,” said Julian, a senior from Mount Vernon, IN. “This is also the experience many of us share when we come out as LGBTQ. I would not be standing here speaking about myself if it weren’t for finding a family, a chosen family, to support me in my journey.”
All four speakers spoke wonderfully to the need for greater queer representation on Wabash’s campus. Speaking after the Chapel Talk, Dr. Elan Pavlinich, Assistant Professor of English and new faculty advisor to ‘shOUT, said that “representation shows that we all intersect with the LGBTQ community in some way. Statistically, we’ve all encountered someone [who is LGBTQ+], so if it’s not you and you can’t identify that person readily, it’s probably because they are getting the message that you’re not a safe person to share this stuff with. So, part of my job is [to ensure] that more Wabash scholars and more of our community understands what it means to be a more inclusive, supportive person so that we aren’t building up those walls.” Last weekend, ‘shOUT’ held its other main event of the month: a Halloween-themed drag show organized by Elijah Weddington ’22. Titled “The Art of Drag,” the show featured Weddington and Love as performers in front of a full crowd in Wally’s Pub.
“I think the event was a huge success,” said Weddington. “We reached our maximum capacity of 44, almost double the attendance from the show held two years ago. On a campus that is widely lacking diversity—where the norm of white, straight men is ingrained in the fabric of the institution—the need for awareness of others identities, intersectional or not, is paramount.” Weddington added, “Conversations need to be had at every level—so maintaining that conversation is important. For too long queer people have hidden in the cracks of Wabash; we’ve met in secrecy; we’ve met in secluded, dark rooms—some literally without windows. On a campus that thrives on conversation and relationships, LGBTQ+ people must be a part of that narrative: both in voice and in topic.”
As well as these larger events, ‘shOUT has also worked hard this month to increase LGBTQ+ visibility across campus. On top of the month-long display of queer art and literature in the library, members of ‘shOUT woke up early one morning earlier this month to line the mall with Pride rainbow flags.
“Visibility is super important,” added Pavlinich. “I’m very out so that people know if they need someone to talk to that there is someone there, or so that students can see it is possible both to be in an authoritative position and to be their authentic self.”
‘shOUT completes its busy schedule of LGBTQ+ History Month events this afternoon with a costume contest at their new office in the basement of the Chapel. The event begins at 3pm, and everybone is welcome to dress up for the chance to win a special (and, of course, fabulous) prize.