LGBTQIA Students of Color Share Ideas Toward Progress
Being a college student whose sexual orientation is something other than straight can be trying. Similarly, matriculation as one whose gender does not comport with traditional, superficial norms may also present challenges. And persons of color know well the hurdles that come with university life in America.
Imagine then the collegiate experience of one who happens to be both queer and brown in the U.S. system of higher education.
Addressing this reality was the topic of a recent focus group at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Convened by Tiffany Williams, director of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Luke Gorham, interim coordinator of LGBTQIA Programs, the forum dealt with identity, oppression, role models and success.
When a person of color is LGBTQI, societal forces often push for making one of these identities primary. Your family might consider you to be Latino or African American first and queer second. Conversely, your gay friends might label you as trans or lesbian first and Asian second. In reality, people exist as integrated beings, encompassing all innate qualities at once. Still, it is difficult not to reflect the ideals of those communities to which you belong. When youï¿½re at home, youï¿½re the studious Desi daughter. When you are at the club, youï¿½re gender-queer.
No matter the level of self-integration, outsiders to your communities will perceive you as different. For a queer person of color, this can potentially result in double oppression. Youï¿½re not just black, youï¿½re transgender. Not only are you a bisexual, youï¿½re also aboriginal or Semitic. Whatever the combination, itï¿½s a two-fold whammy.
The Jan. 21 UMKC focus group, attended by a small group of students, was the first in what could be a series of forums for students and community members to discuss challenges of double identity, the myths and facts about queer persons of color and ways to persevere, overcoming the barriers set down by individuals and institutions. Williams and Gorham hope that this early meeting will mark the beginning of initiatives for further conversation at UMKC, other local college campuses and the larger community.
On campus, students might encounter difficulties with fellow students, faculty members or staff. Safety can also be an issue in education; when one feels unsafe, his/her/hir learning suffers. Future focus groups may deal with specific prevention goals, peer education, dating, intervention and role modeling for college and secondary students.
If you are interested in participating in future focus groups for LGBTQIA persons of color or if you have any questions, concerns or positive ideas for the groupï¿½s facilitators, contact them at their campus locations or via their officesï¿½ Facebook groups.
interim coordinator of LGBTQIA Programs
director of Multicultural Student Affairs
LGBTQIA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and allies
For More Information
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has written a new report about how middle school and high school students deal with this issue. The report, called ï¿½Shared Differences,ï¿½ is available at http://bit.ly/aC0zNC