Best Practices for LGBT Student Groups
|Following are notes and ideas from the workshop by this same name that I facilitated at the Midwest Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Ally College Conference (MGLBTACC) held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, February 22-24, 2008. Some of these ideas are mine; others come from conference participants. Please feel free to use any of them! This is a work in progress. If you would like to add or modify anything below, please send me your ideas. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Challenges to Consider
The Big Picture, More Thoughts, Words of Wisdom
|What are you trying to accomplish? Who is your target audience? (your own group members, the entire campus, the community, etc.)
Can you make your event valuable to those who attend and also to those who don't? (posters, visibility, article in local paper) Types of events/projects include:
Collaborate with nearby schools. Invite them to your events. Block book speakers (If booked by multiple schools on consecutive days, speakers will often give each school a reduced price).
Establish statewide campus alliances uniting the campuses, large and small, across the state (example: Minnesota)
|Post flyers and posters on wall in high traffic buildings.
"Someone You Know" Posters: At Ohio University they have created a series of posters, each with a response to the icon: marriage = man + woman: "1+1=2, no matter what" (t-shirts, posters...)
T-Shirts for visibility.
10% T-Shirts (from Loyola College of Maryland). They produced enough T shirts to equal 10 percent of the campus population and then on a specific day got LBGT people and (mostly) allies to wear them. This was to give everyone in the campus community a sense of just how many LGBT people there are on campus.
Gay–OK with me T-Shirts. I've also seen one that had the words Gay – Lesbian – Bisexual – Transgender written in a circle with FINE BY ME in the center of the circle.
Buttons for visibility: you can buy some (Northern Sun, Donnelly Colt, etc.) or buy button-making equipment and make your own.
| Chalking: write your own positive messages; advertise events; (combat anti-gay chalking with brains: be creative and thoughtful)
Tabling: Every Wednesday, one (or more) student tables at the Union, and we put up signs around campus to let people know we're there.
Informational Meetings: At Simpson, at the beginning of the year, we do hold informational meetings and give insight to students about what we do as an organization and how we are a group that is for everyone, as opposed to being for only LGBT people.
|Day of Silence:
Put up poster series of out celebrities and their photos & quotes. On the actual Day of Silence, put duct tape over celebrities' mouths.
could end with Kiss In "flock mob" kissing
march before breaking the silence
end with event
Night of Noise March
National Coming Out Day:
Speak Out (have members and allies get up and speak)
Coming Out Door (door frame with door on supportive base). Can be painted and decorated. Also: OutHouse, decorated.
World AIDS Week Programming
Celebrate Bisexuality Day (September 23rd)
Trans Day of Remembrance:
mural with trancing of bodies, and in each body list name and information about a transperson who was murdered (name, date, how murdered, personal details, about the person, perhaps a photo, etc.)
|Residence Hall Programming:
Assess residence halls first and see what they need.
Have students sign "zero tolerance" policy against bashing
Be more passive at first and then hit home later
"lock-ins" in res. halls to get people comfortable
"Fast Friends"/"Split Mingling" (at beginning of year)
bringing residence halls together
go through student government for gender neutral bathrooms
have identifying papers where students can put what they're comfortable talking about. (will it create discussions?)
Have RAs go through Safe Zone trainings a week or so into schools. RAS are too overloaded during RA training.
Have up-to-date housing policies/contracts.
"Lemonade Campaign" (When life gives you lemons…) Example of getting people to pledge $ for every minute the Klan, Fred Phelps rallies – or that Ann Coulter speaks on your campus.
A Gay Night in the Arts:
Program with skits, plays, monologues, stats read, powerpoint, video clips, and student displayed art
Use college facilities
donation optional but not required.
Passover Seder for LGBT Students
Panel on Religion and LGBT issues
"Guess the Gay" or… "Guess the Straight" etc.
Have a panel. Audience gets to ask questions. Then votes. Discuss stereotyping, "gaydar," what makes you think someone's gay or straight or bi, etc.
Protest at an area conference for the ex-gay movement
Facilitated discussion of biphobia in gay and straight communities
Drag King pageant
Drag show with a Q&A session afterward
We have an annual Drag Show that is always a big hit on campus. It one of the biggest campus events that happen during the spring. We get a professional drag queen to perform and host the show and we ask faculty members to judge the competition. Students (and some faculty and staff members) participate and dress in drag and perform songs and it is just a lot of fun. We give monetary awards for first, second and third place and we always have a lot of students that want to participate. We do not charge for this event, but we do ask people to bring donations for the Central Iowa AIDS project. (Simpson College)
Can be benefit for a local LGBT nonprofit, or to raise funds for your own group's programming
LGBT Alumni/AE Event:
Banquet or reception or open house during homecoming or commencement week
Wall of Oppression:
Make a wall in a visible place and hold an event to knock/pull down the wall. Include other cultural and ally groups.
International Panel with both students and faculty/staff talking about what homosexuality means in different countries (College of Wooster)
Wear Jeans If You're Gay Day
Discussion on upcoming election / issues with LGBT organizations, Black student associations, Latino/a organization, college Dems/Republicans
"Sex on the Mall":
We took over the main quad, invited other student groups, frats/sororities, community members (Planned Parenthood, Damien Center (HIV/AIDS)).
Have booths with games/information, i.e. "turn over duck with #. Tells you what STD you have, how to treat it, stats pertinent to our campus base on numbers
Sperm/Egg Races: sperm races to egg (True/False questions about birth control)
"Who's the Man" Pictures of transgender/transsexual men/women – have to guess who was born with sex in picture
Awareness Weeks/Pride Weeks with a series of visibility actions and events, such as:
Transgender Awareness Week
Documentary of a trans man F to M, could show other films like TransAmerica
Discussion Panel. Consisted of psychology professor, theology professor, nurse
Made an Out House of cardboard and put it in our student union. Had terminology and facts posted on the outside, kept it out all week.
Info booths in our student union that week
Brought in Loren Cameron (trans photographer) for speaker, followed by reception at a safe space and invited those who attended to come hang out and ask questions.
Queer Emerging Leadership Program (UW Madison):
Coalition with leadership development track. Leadership within the queer community, other groups have emerged from that such as Gender Avengers (safe space and activism for gender nonconforming people
Hold a same-sex marriage, with educational and dramatic component:
Hand out flyers (for example, what are some of the benefits denied to same-sex couples)
serve wedding cake
have people sign up to join email list of your statewide equality group.
Partner with local high schools (example Minneapolis Public Schools):
Have college students do ally training in the public schools. Contact local schools and offer to come speak about your own experience of being a LGBTA high school student. Contact the high school that you attended and offer to do same.
Invite, involve local high schools to attend age-appropriate programming
Hold an open house for local HS students
Have a mentorship program
All of these things will introduce these students to your campus and make them want to come there!
STD duck pond & kiss in
GAYLA (formal dance)
Use butcher block paper to make a large, visible contract against hateful languge, etc.
Family Banquet: a nice meal including volunteers and whoever they consider family
Halloween Fashion Show:
Students dress in all kinds of costumes and model for students. We had music and about 20 student models. Donations went to the Central Iowa Aids Project. (Simpson College)
In February, we sell Condom-grams for Valentine's Day. We see this as an opportunity to spread love and promote safe sex on campus. We take a condom and attached it to a paper heart and them we have a long list of saying that people can choose from and give them to their friends and partners. These are a big hit on campus and we sell them for a very cheap and inexpensive price. (Simpson College)
Condom Art Show (making art using condoms)
We celebrate Freedom to Marry Day by making rainbow cupcakes and setting up an informational booth at our student center. We feel that food is a great way to get people together and talking about the issues and or organization. (Simpson College)
We hold forum events, or town meeting where we talk about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender on campus and how we should support each other. This is a means to create a dialogue between people and we always have a great turnout of students and faculty at these events. Our past event was surrounded around an incident where an gay male was being harassed by fraternities members on campus and quite a few members of the Greek system, athletics and other academic departments showed up and the discussion was amazing. (Simpson College)
Banquet for families
Bash on the Quad
Lobbying Day: If there's important LGBT- or other civil rights legislation pending, set up tables in a very public area such as the student center. Have posters about the issue, inviting people to come to the table and get involved. Have petitions, sign-up sheets for your statewide equality group (or national group such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, if you live in one of the 5 states without a statewide group). Have several laptops so that you can easily look up state legislators and their phone #s. Post quick and concise talking points. Encourage people to call their legislator right there, right then. Let them use your cell phone if they don't have one. This can be especially powerful because in most schools, a large percentage of students are in-state, and they come from all over the state. Note that you can also do this with national legislative issues (for example ENDA). (credit to: the University of Minnesota at Duluth, where I saw this done very effectively)
Performance of The Laramie Project
Live Homosexual Acts:
Post flyers all over campus "Come see live homosexual acts on the quad (or wherever) on Wednesday from 12-1 (or whenever)!" Then have a big "LIVE HOMOSEXUAL ACTS" sign under which a group of students are sitting on a stage, platform, roped off area checking their email, reading, folding laundry, talking on their cell phones, eating lunch, etc.
"KIVA" inner circle/outer circle. Discussion of topics. Only inner circle can discuss topic. Halfway through, the inner circle and outer circle switch places and the exercise continues. [KIVA is a native american tradition. We use it as a special event because our campus can't support it more than once a semester. We come up with our own topics, and they range from religious issues to LGBTA issues, its pretty flexible. We tend to change the length of the session, but generally its an hour or an hour and a half, and you split the time between the inner circle and outer circle. For advertising we post fliers, and send mass e-mail to instructors in hopes that they will bring their classes. Feel free to post my information, i would be more than happy to give info to anyone who wants it. – Caitlin (email@example.com)
Safe Space / Safe Zone Program:
Training on terminology, videos, offer throughout the year, engage the community, targeted to allies
We have different-colored paper (similar to Safe Zone) but for all things: spirituality, drugs/alcohol, etc., that signify that that RA is a safe "go-to" person on that issue
F un events with movies, food, games, etc., to try to draw more allies to at least give them an awareness of your group. Use movies that are gay-themed but accessible/of interest to a wide audience.
"Big Gay Bonfire"
A special event for lgbt students who are graduating. I've spoken at a few of these. They are most powerful and effective when faculty and staff attend. This could be a luncheon or an evening activity. Some places give each graduate a rainbow tassle. Some colleges give awards to graduating students (and allies) who have been especially involved. There is usually a keynote speaker who speaks for 20-30 minutes.
Queer Writers Guild:
A writing group set up to showcase the skills of queer writers while improving our skills in an open environment (from UW Madison)
Boxes & Walls:
Carroll College has been doing an event where we put our audience in the shoes of marginalized and oppressed populations through an interactive performance. Each population has its own room. For example: Latino/a room; LGBTQA room; women's room, etc. It is very eye opening and has an intense impact on people. "a sad day" for a group (POC, Queer, Other-abled). People go in and experience that environment.
| "The Tranny Roadshow"
David Jay on asexuality
Loren Cameron, trans photographer
and oh yeah... Robyn Ochs
|Challenges To Consider|
| What do you do when your campus is generally accepting, but apathetic? How do we get people involved? How do we organize?
Leadership turnover inevitable. How do we keep things going? How do we pass along knowledge?
How do we make it easier for non-visibly glbtq students to come out?
How to organize at a commuter school?
How to deal with Evangelical backlash?
What are ways to connect with local communities and overcome the "university bubble" effect that sometimes happens?
How do you advertise to communities without computer or internet access?
|The Big Picture: Closing Thoughts, Comments, Words of Wisdom|
Have email sign up sheet at every meeting
Keep your website up to date, have subscription link and an easy way to contact the group's leaders.
Keep in touch with everyone who ever comes (sending minutes)
Host informational meetings – having informational materials/advertising/contact
Establish a fixed email address for your group that forwards to your group's leaders. That will make you easier to reach. A forward is also helpful to ensure that it doesn't sit for days or weeks or longer without being checked.
Get involved with first-year events – great visibility! Sets the tone early.
People keep tearing down signs? Keep your website up to date, because people can't tear that down!
Think about specific needs of different types of campuses (for example, technical schools, large sports schools, small liberal arts colleges, religious schools).
Think about programs that focus on intersectionality, and not just white, upper-class and non-trans gays and lesbians. While that's great, there's a dearth of other programming.
Remember that what happens at meetings affects people's lives later.
Build coalitions with academic faculty.
Remember to involve faculty/classes (extra credit) with events. Contact target faculty by email – or go to their office hours and talk to them about the event you're planning.
Tap into Campus traditions, & queering them with your presence.
Remember the value of your events even to to the people who don't attend. People will be affected by your posters and passive displays. Some will feel validated, others will become more aware that LGBTQQA people EXIST.
Ask for donations from local businesses. Invite them to put Safe Zone stickers on their businesses.
Remember to consider accessibility issues when planning events.
Remember the arts as activism!
Remember to think about everyone: queer people of color, bisexual people, transgender people, gay spawn (children of LGBT people), allies, etc.
Remember the importance and value of co-sponsorships. It's a great way to practice intersectionality! Work with like-minded groups on like minded-stuff (not only gay stuff). For example: work with African American student group on civil rights issues, find like-minded service projects.
Keep a notebook/guide to planning EVERYTHING! Pass along your wisdom and experience to next year's leaders. (Sample press releases; how and where to advertise; templates of your best posters; password to access your website; who are supportive faculty and administrators; which are supportive community organization, how to contact the GSA at local high shools – if there are GSAs; info for your treasurer; how to apply for funding; record of past speakers and events, and your comments about the events – how did it go, what did you learn, what would have made the event even better? etc.)
Enlist your alumni/ae. Do you have an LGBT alumni/ae group? If not start one, at least an email list. Send them an electronic newsletter AT LEAST once a year, let them know what's happening on campus, what controversies, what successes. Involve them. Host an alumni/ae & current student event at homecoming or commencement. Ask them (when it makes sense) to write to administrators on relevant issues (for example, to encourage the administration to include gender identity and expression, to fund your group better, etc.). Remember: the university cares about its alumni. Alumni are considered potential donors, alumni are one of the vehicles through which universities recruit new students. Be certain that right-wing alumni are already vocal. Work to counter-balance this.
Ask your university for a lot. Ask for more than you think they'll give you. Go to the President's Office, the Diversity Office, the Dean's Office, Student Activities, the Student Senate, etc. If you don't ask, you won't receive. The worst that can happen is that they can say "no." "If you haven't had many failures, you've pobably been aiming too low."
Smoke and mirrors: keeping a positive attitude. Focus on your successes.