Leaving the nest and coming to college can be a stressful experience, but for queer students, the adjustment can be even more difficult.
Many face isolation from friends, rejection from their parents, and confusion about their sexual identities, but the Queer Student Union, a political and social student-run group on campus works to create a safe and tolerant environment for queer students.
“For some people it’s easier to come out as freshmen because they don’t know anyone, but it’s difficult to come to a new school, stay on top of classes and come to terms with your sexuality at the same time,” QSU secretary Nelson Maltez said. “It was difficult for me to go to UCSB because I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know there was support on campus.”
QSU organizes outreach programs, rallies, workshops and panels with the goal of educating the public about queer issues. Groups on campus adopted the term “queer” to unite lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning students.
“[QSU] is really a place where you can find a niche,” QSU co-adviser Jack Revis said. “If you want a supportive environment, this is the place to go.”
During the week of welcome, QSU will set up a table near the library to answer questions and pass out information. The group is committed to letting queer students know that support is available.
“We don’t want [freshmen] to feel alone,” QSU co-chair Kiely Hosmon said. “QSU is definitely going to make a statement on campus, and we definitely want freshmen in our organization.”
Counseling & Career Services also offers counselors and support groups for queer students, while the Queer People of Color group provides support for ethnic minorities.
“It is important to have these groups because the campus should be safe for people to express themselves and be safe regardless of race, gender or sexual identity,” Maltez said.
This year, QSU hopes to increase its membership and become more visible in the community. In the past, Maltez said people were hesitant to join QSU because they did not feel welcomed.
“Some of the things that I have heard from people is that QSU was not inclusive of queer people of color,” Maltez said. “This year QSU has new members and new leadership that are acutely aware of the issues.”
QSU is making an effort to welcome anyone on campus or in the community to join, even if they want to keep their sexuality private.
“We are deeply committed to protecting confidentiality – you don’t have to be queer to be in QSU nor do you have to be ‘out,'” Maltez said. “You can participate however much or however little as you want to, even if it just means listening in on a meeting.”
QSU organizes UCSB’s annual Pride Week, a celebration of the queer members of the community as well as their allies. The group was also instrumental in establishing the Queer Resource Center. Though it is a social action group, it is also a safe haven for people who do not want to participate politically.
In the coming months, QSU will prepare for National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and Gay Pride Day on Oct. 12.
Students can get more information at www.geocities.com/qsu_ucsb/ or contact Kiely Hosmon at email@example.com.