Paving the way

In recent months, Nashville's stance on LGBT rights has become national fodder. One positive result of this discussion is the renewed commitment by the LGBT community and their allies to press forward in the face of discrimination.

As is often the case, institutions of higher learning are often an epicenter for discussion on social issues. Peabody Queeries, based in Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development, is a key member in the movement to secure LGBT rights on a larger scale. The Queeries, who serve as the official gay-straight alliance for graduate and professional students, bring these parties together to participate in activities surrounding LGBT interests.

"As a whole, in our college we think about learning and development at a lot of different stages," says Jasmine Ma, treasurer of Peabody Queeries. "And as graduate students who do a lot of research about education, we sort of have a different view on LGBT issues than other parts of Vanderbilt. We study the enterprise of the university and want to work on community-building. Our goal is to open up some dialogue and create positive change about how people talk about LGBT issues." 

Vanderbilt University features a variety of programming and resources focused on these issues. The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Life acts as a cultural center for those interested in the study of gender and sexuality. And recently the School of Medicine hosted LGBT Health Week, an event that drew awareness to the unique health concerns facing the LGBT population.

The desire of the Queeries to discuss these important issues has been made easier by the university's support of their projects.

"The climate is really growing in a fantastic way," says Ma. "We're growing the community and this educational system and we've started to see a lot of great programming and great resources (concerning LGBT issues)."

Moving beyond the boundaries of the Vanderbilt campus is the crucial next step, according to Luke Garton, president of Peabody Queeries.

"The ultimate goal would be to have a relationship with the Middle Tennessee community," he says. "As a university we have a lot of resources, and we're hoping to build up and out. All of our events are open to the public. It gives people who might not otherwise deal with these issues a venue and the opportunity to do so. The graduate school is its own entity. We don't make it a Peabody thing. We want it to be unique to our expertise and the issues that we cover."

The art of learning doesn't end in the classroom, so the goal of the Queeries is to deliver impactful messages that will last a lifetime. By studying both local and national news, they discuss how the LGBT community works with the mainstream.
"We're really focusing on how education and human development are related to LGBTQUI issues globally and at Vanderbilt in general," Garton says. "The university has made so much progress. I think that speaks a huge amount about the progress here. They're not just tolerant, but fully accepting of the LGBT community.

If you would like additional information concerning Peabody Queeries or wish to join the organization, you can contact them at or visit their Facebook page.

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