Associated Students groups Queer Commission and Take Back the Night held a joint protest advocating the rights of sexual violence victims and LGBTQIA campus members last Friday.
Protestors marched from Cheadle Hall to Pardall Tunnel and then along Del Playa Drive, carrying signs calling for improved rights for LGBTQIA students and community members and chanting a myriad of slogans like, “Wherever we go, however we dress, no means no and yes means yes!” The protest was the first event in Queer Commission’s Anti-Homophobia Campaign, which seeks to address the apparent rise in harassment directed toward queer students.
A rise in harassment has been seen in Isla Vista this year, according to Queer Commission Co-Chair RJ Thomsen, who headed the protest.
Thomsen, who is a fourth-year feminist studies major, said Queer Commission collaborated with Take Back the Night to form a more inclusive gender community, uniting LGBTQIA and anti-sexist groups for greater power and effectiveness.
“We’re kind of uniting queers and sexual violence [advocates]; we’re a lot stronger that way,” Thomsen said. “I also wanted us to recognize that sexual violence occurs in the queer community. Oftentimes, it can be overlooked and a lot of sexual violence advocates only really do things for heterosexual people, so we really wanted to recognize that.”
As the protest continued through Del Playa Drive, many onlookers joined in the effort or cheered on in support. However, one house of residents on Del Playa booed the cause, using a megaphone to ask that protestors quiet down.
Take Back the Night Co-Chair Danielle Bermudez, fourth-year feminist studies major, said such protests bolster the visibility of the LGBTQIA community on campus, allowing them to create a stronger sense of support and resistance within it. Bermudez said she could see the impact of Friday’s protest in grasping the attention of students and Isla Vista residents to carry out these efforts.
“Well I think one thing I noticed on Friday was that a lot of people were kind of just peeking out of their windows, coming out of their apartments or businesses down Pardall, looking to see what was going on,” Bermudez said. “I think if anything it gave us a lot of authority. I noticed a lot of people trying to join in the chants from their apartments. And of course there were a few instances where people were not supportive, but I found there was a lot more support that outweighed the negative.”
According to Olivia Miller, third-year English major and co-chair of the non-political organization Friendly Undergraduate Queers in it Together, or FUQIT, said the resistance and negativity expressed toward LGBTQIA groups serve as greater motivation to continue efforts empowering the queer community.
“I haven’t felt safe in I.V. before, as a queer person, so I’m glad we were able to take action collectively,” Miller said. “I’ve had things yelled at me before.”
Both Thomsen and Bermudez said they look forward to collaborating in the future and hope to plan more events this quarter.
According to Thomsen, since the LBTQIA community has faced continuing obstacles for acceptance in Isla Vista and at UCSB, queer community members and other advocates will continue to struggle for full integration into the community.
“I hope that it can show people on campus and in I.V. that we’re serious, that, you know, if you say something to our community, we’re going to come back and protest and we’re going be loud and we’re going be in-your-face until we’re accepted,” Thomsen said. “We want to be able to walk places, walk home to our houses in I.V. without being harassed, without being called fags or ‘it’ or stuff like that.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of February 5th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.