With the holidays just around the corner, many students are booking flights and making plans for their journey home. However, for students of the LGBTQ+ community, the decision to go home is much more complicated. In preparation for this time of year, the LGBT Resource Center put on a Queer Conversations event about going home for the winter break.
Queer Conversations are headed by the LGBT Resource Center and happen twice a semester with the purpose of discussing common queer issues while also giving members of their community a safe space to openly talk. The Center also hosted a Queer Conversations event earlier this semester on Oct. 30 that explored queer and trans representation on TV and film.
“It’s important that students are given this intentional space to explore these topics,” said the coordinator of education and outreach at the LGBT Resource Center, Shelby Hearn.
On Nov. 12, the LGBT Resource Center collaborated with the Black Cultural Center to host the “Going Home for Break” conversation. Meligha Garfield, the director of the Black Cultural Center, said they made the decision to collaborate because of the pressure that can come with being both black and queer, and they wanted to explore this intersectionality.
Clare Lemke, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said that she got the idea for this topic from Iowa State University and thought that this would be a good time to have the discussion.
They watched the Thanksgiving episode of the Netflix original show “Master of None,” loosely based on writer Lena Waithe’s personal life. The Emmy-winning episode details several years of family Thanksgivings that the character Denise went through, showing her coming out, bringing home girlfriends and eventually finding acceptance in her family.
Additionally, they held a discussion about personal experiences related to the episode, while having facilitators from Housing and Residential Education and the Counseling Center help with the conversation.
They discussed topics such as setting boundaries with family and talking to them beforehand, using coping mechanisms to use in tense situations and reassuring people it’s okay to not go home if they don’t feel comfortable. The idea of forming a chosen family selected through connections, empathy and unconditional love instead of blood relations was also explored.
Many facilitators shared personal stories about how this has affected their lives and how they have coped with difficult situations.
Cha McNeil, resident director of the social justice advocates, said events like this are about letting people know they are not alone and there are resources available for students. The HRE can connect students staying over break with RAs on campus, and the counseling center has a 24/7 crisis line. She said these resources are especially important for first-year students who are going through this process for the first time.
“University of Utah is trying to be home to students too,” McNeil said.
“I did really appreciate the discussion. I think that there is a lot of similar experiences we have,” said Kayla Flannagan, a fourth-year student majoring in biology and math and a member of the queer community. They attended the event because they are experiencing family issues and are currently debating on whether or not they want to go home. “I felt very comfortable sharing in that space,” they said.
“While I don’t think externally anything has changed, internally I feel a lot more at peace with my situation, whether or not I still choose to go home for Thanksgiving,” they said, emphasizing that it was a positive experience. The size of the event was conducive to creating a safe space, and the facilitators asked effective questions and helped provide an important discussion.