UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Students Trans & Queer Commission held a Spring Town Hall in the MultiCultural Center lounge on May 9 at 6 p.m. to discuss local LGBTQIA+ advocacy and receive community feedback regarding future events and the commission as a whole.

The Trans & Queer Commission’s purpose is to advocate for LGBTQIA+ students and cultivate a more inclusive, welcoming campus community, according to third-year psychological & brain sciences major and Trans & Queer Commission Internal Coordinator Lily Poe. 

“[Our goal is] to make a comfortable and safe campus that feels inviting and inclusive for everybody but namely focused on the LGBTQ+ community,” Poe said.

Poe began the town hall by introducing participants to the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD), a frequent partner with the commission on many of its events. She described the RCSGD’s mission as “promoting the celebration, development, scholarship and success of the LGBTQIA+ community through advocacy, education, programming and resource creation and referral.”

The town hall featured a Q&A session where audience members pitched their ideas for events that the commission could hold next year. Some of the suggestions included  additional socials, book clubs and hikes to connect members of the LGBTQIA+ campus community. Attendees also provided recommendations for possible offerings for next year’s Pride celebration. Fifth-year feminist studies major and Student Advocate General Geovany Lucero proposed a clothing drive to assist queer, gender nonconforming and transgender students — something the RCSGD introduced in previous events like the Trans Week of Visibility Resource Fair 

“One of the [ideas] that I highlighted was possibly setting up a a drive of materials or clothing or even accessories for queer, gender nonconforming and trans students or local community members as a way to provide materials that for some may be materialistic but for others could be a very serious part of their identity,” Lucero said. 

Lucero also discussed the need for Associated Students (A.S.) to repair its relationship with the community, given its history of inflicting harm and violence against marginalized communities.

“I think over these past few years, A.S. has just really gained a very bad reputation across our student body. Our association does have a history of harm and violence, specifically to marginalized communities on our campus,” Lucero said. “The first step in moving forward is acknowledging that and being able to call that out and highlight it and spotlight it in what’s going on, and then working around having conversations around how we work together to get rid of this problem.”

Following public comment, the town hall pivoted to a discussion of the commission’s internal operations and an overview of its upcoming events, which includes a virtual mixture to encourage the revitalization of queer organizations on campus.

Poe reflected on the difficulties the commission has faced in attempting to connect with and unite LGBTQIA+ clubs — in particular, the number of clubs attending the monthly meetings had dramatically decreased after the pandemic. She attributed this to the departure of graduating classes and the difficulties of recruiting in a pandemic. 

“One of the big things affecting them coming out of the pandemic and not being able to restart is that the members have all graduated,” Poe said. “I know a lot of clubs weren’t really recruiting much during the pandemic because it was hard to get people to add something to their schedule with all of the stress and resume fatigue.” 

To address this issue, RCSGD and the Trans & Queer Commission will jointly host a virtual event on May 13 that aims to inspire participants to revitalize LGBTQIA+ clubs that have been hit hard by the pandemic and encourage students to create new ones. Poe said that she believes that these smaller organizations provide a unique sense of community and unity that assists LGBTQIA+ students. 

“Being connected to a community really gives a lot of resilience to stress and bad life outcomes,” she said. “I think that there’s a lot of benefit to having that sense of community that only small organizations where you see people every week can really provide you.” 

Fifth year art and feminist studies double major and Vice Co-Chair of the commission Julia Bielenberg said events hosted by the Trans & Queer Commission — including an upcoming Drag Bingo event — help highlight queer joy and create spaces of community. 

“I think queer joy is really important,” she said. “I think it’s important to create spaces for queer people, especially because there aren’t necessarily that many spaces specifically for us. I also think it’s really important, especially this year because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to be in community and people haven’t been able to come out to events or haven’t had the capacity to sit on Zoom for an hour.”

Poe expressed the importance of LGBTQIA+ students letting the commission and other organizations know what they want for the future. 

“Besides joining a queer organization or the queer commission, this is probably one of the easiest ways to tell us what you want,” Poe said. “This feedback is going to be stuff that we write in our past reports and tell everybody for next year, and for those of us staying on the commission, this will be the kind of stuff that affects everything we do next year.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the May 12, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.