The Associated Students Trans & Queer Commission held a Queer and Trans town hall and Queer Fest on Monday, April 10 kicking off its annual UC Santa Barbara Pride Week.
Queer Fest, held in Little Acorn Park with about 200 attendees, featured live music from local artists like Redd, arts and crafts stations to build charms and bracelets, and 13 business vendors selling Pride stickers, stationary and other merchandise by LGBTQIA+ students. Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) and the Santa Barbara Arts Fund collaborated to hold the free public event.
“We wanted an outlet for LGBTQIA+ student vendors to sell their materials, to get support, to be seen, to network, to connect with people,” Trans & Queer Commission (TQC) co-chair and fourth-year English and sociology double major Anusikha Halder said.
“Also [the festival was] to have a space and event where people can really enjoy themselves, relax, de-stress and have a really good time with the community,” Halder continued.
Third-year environmental studies major and TQC Pride Commissioner Isabella Ramirez was proud that Queer Fest kicked off UCSB Pride 2023, a week-long event that features a vogue dance workshop, an LGBTQIA+ focused clothing swap, Queer Prom and a free drag show.
“We wanted this to be open to the public so people can enjoy it, and we really want it to be a chill event to kick off our Pride Week,” Ramirez said.
During the event, IVRPD unveiled a permanently-installed mural celebrating Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community, something IVRPD Recreation Coordinator Sophia Lake said was an exciting element of Queer Fest.
“One of our main goals is to increase the art in our parks because public art is such an incredible thing that really brings communities together,” Lake said. “We wanted to commemorate both Pride Week as well as the LGBTQIA+ community within Isla Vista through the mural.”
The mural artist, Dez Porter, said the artwork’s concept was UCSB Pride 2023’s theme: “The Future is Queer,” expressing enthusiasm about having the mural permanently installed in Little Acorn Park.
“I want [people] to be proud and excited that something like this is happening,” Porter said. “I actually am born and raised in Santa Barbara, so for me, it’s exciting knowing that something like this is here.”
The mural depicts two androgynous characters holding hands while looking out into the sky, illustrating feelings of hope and optimism, Porter said. The characters are also donning flower gowns, taking inspiration from Marsha P. Johnson — a prominent activist in the 1960s gay rights movement — and the flower crowns she wore during the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
“It’s supposed to be hopeful and looking out into the promise of the future, super optimistic,” they said.
Lake said it’s especially pressing to celebrate Queer joy amidst the current political climate of the country. There have been over 100 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills filed in 22 states this year as of January 2023, according to NBC News.
“Especially with the anti-trans, anti-LGBT legislation around the country right now, we wanted to show our support and show that the community loves and accepts them and we’re just a stronger community altogether,” she said.
Porter echoed Lake’s sentiment, speaking to the importance of having a unified front as a community against discriminatory legislation.
“When these types of topics get brought to the forefront in the mainstream media, the mainstream media takes over and has a larger voice than us, which can be discouraging,” Porter said. “So I think that [events] like this are really important to come together and have a unified voice.”
A quarterly town hall hosted by TQC before Queer Fest aimed to create a space for the commission to hear feedback and make UCSB’s LGBTQIA+ community feel “safe and seen,” according to third-year sociology and political science double major and TQC co-chair Angellina Querol.
The town hall, held in the MultiCultural Center lounge, began with Halder prompting attendees on their favorite television series with LGBTQIA+ representation and offering reassurance that the event was a safe space.
“TQC holds a town hall every quarter to emphasize the fact that we’re here for you,” Halder said. “You have a voice, you have advocacy and we’re advocating on behalf of you. So this is your time and place to raise issues.”
Halder spoke to the history and work of TQC and spotlighted third-year writing and literature major and Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) Outreach Coordinator Mikayla Buhbe to share RCSGD’s work as well.
Buhbe highlighted the RCSGD’s lounge space with physical resources like food, free printing, free menstrual supplies, safe sex supplies and more, as well as confidential counseling. She then spoke to the various social and educational event programming of the center, spotlighting the events coming up for Trans Week of Visibility.
“Our goal is to serve as broad of a net of a community as we can,” Buhbe said during the town hall.
In discussing how to offer support to LGBTQIA+ people in the face of harassment on campus, Halder pitched a potential safety seminar inclusive to students of color without police involvement and as healing spaces for different marginalized communities.
“Oftentimes, [community healing sessions] serve as memorials or are in response to a tragedy, which is really important, but I think it’s also important to recognize the stress our students are continuously put through in our communities,” Halder said during the town hall.
The town hall participants chimed in with their own suggestions, including hosting self-defense classes for transgender community members. Buhbe mentioned potential listening sessions at the RCSGD to discuss how to center social justice on campus.
“The idea behind those [sessions] are group discussion spaces and meetings about what the campus could look like if it was built around social justice work,” Buhbe said during the town hall. “So we have an anonymous feedback survey that’s on our social media to get a sense of what we’re looking for … and I think that student safety can absolutely be touched on.”
Halder then asked the group what would make LGBTQIA+ spaces at UCSB feel more accessible and welcoming, and the group discussed the installation and evolution of the gender neutral bathrooms on campus.
“The new building’s [gender neutral] bathrooms have been the best bathrooms on campus, so thank you for advocating for those,” an attendee said in reference to the gender neutral bathrooms at the Interactive Learning Pavillion.
Another attendee urged for an accessible resource guide that outlines the different healthcare and medical options available for transgender students on campus.
Halder said the town hall helps the commission be a more accessible resource for LGBTQIA+ students.
“Going forward, the commission is really going to push forward in making resource guides and reaching out to people and having more community healing spaces, so people feel connected … to something that has existed, they just haven’t known about,” they said.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the April 13, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
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