Just in time for a celebration of its history, one group on campus has changed its name to encompass more of who it caters to.
October is LGBT History Month, but the former GLBT Resource Center on campus has changed its name to the LGBTQ Resource Center to adapt to changing meanings that surround the words used to identify its community.
“There’s a very important effort to recognize the fluidity of our community,” said Wendy Weinhold, LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator. “I think one of the things that people often struggle with is, ‘Well how many terms are there for you?’ and ‘How do I know what it is I’m supposed to use?’ My answer is: You change; let us change, too, because we’re all in the process of always changing.”
Weinhold said the resource center’s name change is just one example of those changes.
She said the center was named the GLBT resource center when formed in 2007, but the group underwent a name change in September to be called the LGBTQ Resource Center — or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer Resource Center.
The reason the T stands for Trans and not transexual or transgender, Weinhold said, is because those words have different meanings.
“The word ‘trans’ takes away the meaning of privilege and the emphasis on somebody who has undergone surgery or is taking some type of hormone replacement therapy, and instead recognizes that people are in different positions … They nonetheless may want to identify for being in some transitional position,” she said.
Weinhold said what it means to identify with a certain term changes as those words’ meanings change. GLBT was the most commonly used acronym when the center formed, but a name used more often today is LGBTQ, although there are several others, she said.
“We also wanted to recognize that we have a very important, a very active and very strong queer community on our campus,” she said. “Nobody wanted to disregard that.”
Weinhold said the word queer is a very revolutionary word that has only over recent years been a term the community identifies with.
“It’s a word that in the past has been used as a word of harm,” she said. “It has been reclaimed to mean a word of intelligence, a word of revolution, and it’s a very important part of our community, of our culture, of our heritage.”
Several events will take place on campus this month to recognize LGBT history month.
There will be two educational panels, one about the coming-out experience and decisions surrounding it and another about HIV and AIDS. SIU faculty, staff and students will lead the panels.
There will also be three speakers. The first will be Keith Boykin, who Weinhold said is an activist, author and media celebrity who commentates for MSNBC.
“He’s black and openly gay, and (he) was the highest ranking member of the Clinton administration to be openly gay,” she said. “He’s coming to talk about what it means to have all of these intersecting identities and the importance of understanding the community.”
Karma Chavez will be the keynote speaker this month, Weinhold said. Chavez will visit the university to discuss the rhetoric of coming out as well as intersections and boundaries between identities.
Another speaker, Alison Grillo, is an openly trans comedian from New York City.
“She’s going to be great in terms of education and entertainment,” Weinhold said. “She also had her Ph.D. in English and was a teacher for 10 years, so she’s got a lot of things that she’s going to be bringing to us.”
Other events include webinars, lectures, films, a flag football game, knitting circles and a dance.
The Saluki Rainbow Network is also working with the LGBTQ Resource Center to move the network’s drag show from November to October to honor the month’s festivities. The show will be held Oct. 19 in the Student Center Ballrooms.
Ongoing services the center offers and will host weekly this month include safe-zone training, which is intended to help people who are working to identify themselves or have someone to talk to in the LGBTQ community.
“It enlightens people in the community and students who have issues with their sexuality,”said Kevin Hostetler, a center volunteer and University Housing food service assistant manager. ‘‘It points them in the direction of other services they can use.”
A program the resource center has just begun to offer is a mentors program, where students or community members can meet in a non-hierarchical setting to learn about and share their experiences, said Melissa Calvert, a graduate assistant with the center.
In sync with the focus on changing identities that many of the speakers are expected to bring to some of the history month events, as well as with the LGBTQ name change, is the idea that identities change for individuals.
Patrick Dilley, an associate professor in educational administration and higher education, wrote a book based on his dissertation titled “Queer man on campus,” which is a history of non-heterosexual men in college from 1995-2000. As a part of the conducted research, he said he looked closely at sexual identities particularly in a college environment.
The resource center’s name change is complicated, he said, because it narrows down which students will respond to the name based on what they identify with and take advantage of the resources.
“From my work, what I fully understand now is that there is no cohesive, quote ‘gay’ identity,’’ he said. ‘‘We have to be more nuanced in our understanding and in what our students experience and what they go through and what they think about.”
Dilley said there are more students today who are coming out earlier and identifying as gay, lesbian or queer. As a result, he said, there are more students to serve who would relate to the LGBTQ titles.
“As we continue to have these conversations over time, we can become more distinct in what we mean when we use words,” he said. “We can become more understanding of different identities and different portions of the population that make up a community, and it gives us new opportunities to bridge the gap.”
Dilley said he encouraged students who don’t necessarily identify themselves with the LGBTQ community to attend the education programs offered through this month’s events because it can help increase understanding and awareness of what other students experience. He said graduate students planned much of the month’s festivities.
“These are student initiatives,” he said. “This is student-produced and generated, and I think we should be really thankful we have students who do this for us.”
Weinhold said a calendar of this month’s events can be found on the SIU LGBT Resource Center Facebook page.