MSA assistant director Jordan Turner brings focus to entire LGBT community

Jordan+Turner+takes+over+as+assistant+director+of+Multicultural+Student+Affairs+after+previously+working+at+UConn.+Turner+hopes+to+bring+attention+to+a+wide+range+of+LGBT+issues+at+NU.
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MSA assistant director Jordan Turner brings focus to entire LGBT community

Jordan Turner takes over as assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs after previously working at UConn. Turner hopes to bring attention to a wide range of LGBT issues at NU.

Jordan Turner takes over as assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs after previously working at UConn. Turner hopes to bring attention to a wide range of LGBT issues at NU.

Jerry Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Jordan Turner takes over as assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs after previously working at UConn. Turner hopes to bring attention to a wide range of LGBT issues at NU.

Jerry Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Jerry Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Jordan Turner takes over as assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs after previously working at UConn. Turner hopes to bring attention to a wide range of LGBT issues at NU.

Alex Putterman, Web Editor

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Jordan Turner found it difficult to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage last month.

As much of the LGBT community rejoiced, Turner, the new assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs at Northwestern, couldn’t help but think of the progress yet to be made on the subjects of gender and sexuality.

“There’s this blatant disregard for a lot of issues in the LGBT community,” Turner said last week. “We focus so much on gay marriage and what that means, but really that doesn’t affect most people in the LGBT community. That’s a huge triumph, it’s a huge win, but my hope is that now that we’re past that we’ve got to move on and focus on some other pressing issues.”

Turner’s goal at NU is to convey the LGBT community’s vast diversity to everyone on campus.

Turner, who identifies as gender queer and uses “they/them/their” pronouns, will work specifically with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, advising students, coordinating programming and mentoring anyone who steps in their office.

Though the position didn’t exist before, Turner will assume many of the roles previously held by Devin Moss, who served as director of the LGBT Resource Center (now the GSRC) before leaving NU in August 2014. Turner will work mostly with the LGBT community as well as provide resources for other groups under the MSA umbrella.

Since stepping into the role July 6, Turner hasn’t had full exposure to the NU student body, but the interactions they have had have left a strong impression.

“I had no idea what to expect coming to Northwestern,” Turner, 28, said. “But the students are very humble, very thoughtful, very introspective with an emphasis on listening and hearing each other and being in a community.”

After growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, Turner attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and then earned a master’s degree at Western Illinois. Turner most recently worked in residential housing at the University of Connecticut, where they helped create a student leadership program for social justice education and a special group for gender-nonconforming students. At UConn, Turner realized the impact one ally or mentor could have on students struggling with gender identity.

Jason Baskette-Chalk was one student who worked closely with Turner at UConn. Baskette-Chalk, who also uses “they/them/their” pronouns, was referred to Turner when the school’s Rainbow Center told them the center lacked resources to provide guidance on issues of gender identity. Baskette-Chalk and Turner helped created Out of the Box, a discussion and support group for students with non-binary gender identities.

Baskette-Chalk said Turner’s strength was their willingness to accept any gender identity or sexual orientation.

“I know that (Turner) will always have my back,” Baskette-Chalk said. “And that even if they don’t quite understand where I’m coming from, they will sit and have that conversation with me in order to understand it and find a way to help support from that point forward.”

Turner says one of their principle challenges at NU will be attentively serving an LGBT population with a diverse array of challenges and needs. That means resources not only for cisgender gay and lesbian students but also for transgender individuals and those with non-binary gender identities, who Turner said sometimes get left out of conversation about LGBT rights.

“There’s like a line people have when it comes to trans and gender-expansive issues,” Baskette-Chalk said. “If you cross that line people say ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, and I’m not going to back you up on it,’ but J.T. always, always, always is there in some capacity to try and support people.”

Starting in September, Turner plans to speak with as many students as possible to gather any and all relevant perspectives. Turner will also reach out to student groups and academic departments with connections to LGBT issues.

Throughout the year, Turner will work closely with the Rainbow Alliance, NU’s most prominent LGBT student group. Rainbow Alliance co-president Car Jansen said the group will be looking for “guidance and advice.”

Days into the job, Turner is already impressed by NU, which they described as “ahead of the curve” on LGBT issues. The school’s leadership is “very visionary,” Turner said, with students’ interests the chief priority. And from Turner’s limited exposure to the student body, there’s much to look forward to.

“The energy here, when I came on campus, the students, I describe it as a quiet confidence,” Turner said. “I’ve been in some other similar type institutions, and the students were very, very different. But here, they’re dedicated, passionate, smart — and that really excited me.”

Email: asputt@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AlexPutterman

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