The Gay-Straight Alliance organization allows LGBTQ students to meet and share feelings concerns and experiences with the community and to spread awareness of the SIUE LGBTQ community to the campus as a whole.
The 15 members within the organization emphasize the importance of support along with diversity, inclusiveness and community outreach to strengthen the bond between all communities.
First-year social work graduate student and member of GSA Alder Crain, of O’Fallon, Illinois, said it’s important to have an organization like GSA on campus because of the connections you can make.
“It really connects people and fosters a sense of community and allows people to meet and connect with others they may not have met otherwise,” Crain said.
This semester the organization has had events such as Board Game Night, a bake sale for the Trevor Project, a movie night, a Smash Bros. tournament and LGBT Time.
Sophomore nursing major and Vice President of GSA Sara Simpson of Galatia, Illinois, said her favorite event was LGBT Time because it allowed for a safe space to share stories with one another.
“My favorite night is when we do LGBT Time, which is where we get together and talk about coming out stories, issues for LGBT people and problems we had, and I really like that because we can come and listen and give advice, and it’s a nice space to be able to go to,” Simpson said.
According to Simpson, GSA hopes to have campus-wide events next semester, such as bringing in LGBTQ guest speakers and hosting a drag show.
Simpson said if they hosted a drag show GSA could involve the former members of Delta Lambda Phi if they wanted to participate.
“We could definitely involve them if they wanted to be a part of the drag show, and I’m sure they have tons of great advice and experience, so it would be great if they wanted to be involved,” Simpson said.
Simpson said anyone from Delta Lambda Phi, the fraternity no longer active on campus, are more than welcome to join GSA if they would like to, but she was surprised to hear they were no longer on campus.
“I think that’s a good opportunity for everyone — for LGBT just to be able to be a part of a fraternity and not feel like they were out of place — and so I feel surprised that there were not enough members,” Simpson said. “Anyone from that fraternity is more than welcome to join GSA and be active in our group.”
Senior English major and the GSA Historian Indie Carroll, of Springfield, Illinois, said the organization will also focus on more LGBTQ holidays as well.
“I think [GSA] is thinking about focusing on transgender rights panels and being on top of certain holidays like LGBT History Month in October, Asexual Awareness Week, Trans Day of Visibility and Transgender Day of Remembrance and things like that, that we want to tackle,” Carroll said.
Carroll said they believe SIUE is doing better with the initiative to allow preferred name changes and pronouns.
“I think the campus is definitely trying to make an effort, and there has definitely been a push for preferred name changes, like on Blackboard, that has really helped,” Carroll said. “A faculty member kept labeling [a student] incorrectly as she/her when they gave the faculty member their preferred pronouns. We emailed the people about the faculty member, and they immediately came in and apologized and corrected what was wrong.”
Crain said they joined GSA to discover people with similar stories to theirs.
“I wanted to be more involved with the LGBTQ community. I identify within the community, so I wanted to meet people who may have had a similar experience as mine and people who may understand what I deal with,” Crain said. “I was just looking for like-minded individuals.”
Simpson said she wishes SIUE knew that GSA is a home away from home.
“[GSA] gives people a home when they don’t have one or feel like they don’t have one. Not everyone is out, and not every who is out is supported, so having an organization on campus that is LGBT-friendly and supportive is a place to go to, to feel like you have a family and a home,” Simpson said.