Defining Safe: Rainbow Alliance speaks on importance of pronouns

CASSIDY JACKSON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Cassidy Jackson. Thanks for tuning in, and welcome to the sixth episode of “Defining Safe.” In honor of October being LGBT History Month, I talked to the Rainbow Alliance external president about Rainbow Week, which the organization hosted last week, and a pronoun button making event on International Pronouns Day.

LILY: I’ve been, you know, getting pretty used to being like, “Oh, my name is Lily. My pronouns are this,” just to make it a more routine thing to say whenever you introduce yourself. I went home and was working with high schoolers. I said that and everyone was like, “Woah, what?” And I was like, “What? It’s a thing we do in college.” You just forget like not everyone’s used to it, but it should be a part of a routine.

JACKSON: Can you like just introduce yourself like your name, your year, your major, all the normal jazz?

LILY: Okay, I’m Lily. I’m a third year. I’m majoring in Communication Studies and I have a music minor. My pronouns are she/her.

JACKSON: Lily is the external president for Rainbow Alliance. She plans their collabs with organizations in and outside of Northwestern.

LILY: I think Rainbow Week, it was especially important this week, because of the Supreme Court ruling too. LGBTQ+ laws and regulations have just been in discussion even more this week. So I think pretty much all this hit at actually a really great time. It’s just a teaching moment I think for everybody and everyone can understand like, how they can help even be an ally or help the community in general.

JACKSON: The Supreme Court is currently considering whether federal civil rights laws should extend to the queer community. If the Court rules in favor, millions of queer people will be protected from discrimination in the workplace. Oral arguments for the case unfolded amid LGBT History Month, which is all of October, and during Rainbow Alliance’s Rainbow Week, which started October 6 and ended last Friday. Rainbow Week kicked off with painting the rock, then had events like a game night and a Batwoman screening. But coming up, they’re also hosting events like queer coffee hour, firesides and Wellness Wednesdays. Lily said Rainbow Alliance is also trying to connect students with resources outside of Northwestern.

LILY: There’s Trans Wellness, which is, they’re going to visit like our campus, and they’re part of the Center on Halsted, which is a great like resource center out in Chicago. And they’re going to come here and talk about trans wellness and all the ways and resources that are available in the Chicago area ‘cause I feel like a lot of people don’t really know what’s around outside of Northwestern.

JACKSON: On October 16, International Pronouns Day, Rainbow Alliance hosted a pronoun button making table in Norris in collaboration with Multicultural Student Affairs. McCormick first-year Kennedy Shirk said they appreciate that there’s support for the trans community on campus.

Kennedy Shirk: My friends have used they/them or ze/zir pronouns or are trans and I myself use she/her or they/them, so it’s very nice to have that support on the campus and show that. It’s part of who you are, and if you can’t respect that, it’s very hard to have an actual dialogue… I spoke to a few students who haven’t been as good about it, but the staff have been great.

JACKSON: Weinberg sophomore Kayla Blaise said getting pronouns right is a simple way to be inclusive.

Kayla Blaise: It’s a really important thing for a lot of people, and I think it’s important to respect that, and if it’s like a small thing I can do to make other people comfortable, then why not do it? It’s really about their identity, and if someone was attacking a part of my identity, I would be upset.

JACKSON: Lily said partnering with other organizations, like the Multicultural Student Affairs, is part of an effort to make a more inclusive community within the queer community. Matthew Abtahi, assistant director for MSA, said the organization hopes to continue to build more community for those students on campus.

MATT ABTAHI: There’s a lot of community I think we’re hoping to build. I think students have been really frank about the ways in which the community needs to grow, which I appreciate. It’s gonna take some time, it’s gonna take some effort. That, coupled with getting to learn what this institution is, and all the, like, different pieces that are going on behind the scenes, is going to help me support the students in the best way possible.

JACKSON: Lily says it’s important to them to have a space on campus to talk about issues relevant to queer students, a space where they feel understood.

LILY: Say like classes are super hard, at least you have one part — like maybe some social life — figured out. At least you have one group that you can go to and find people who will understand and relate to you… And, I think it just definitely makes me more aware of like the policies and what’s happening in Northwestern, especially revolving around like to us LGBTQ+ students and everything like that. If I wasn’t part of Rainbow, or if we didn’t, like, talk about how Northwestern’s, like laws and even, like, changes to the dorms, like gender-open housing and stuff like that, like I would have no clue what was actually the policies of like say the Office of Equity, what we’re protected under, discrimination, stuff like that.

JACKSON: When reflecting on the importance of the button-making event, Abtahi explains that pronouns are part of each person’s identity, similar to your name.

ABTAHI: It would be like if I called you Tim, and your name is like clearly not Tim, and I just kept calling you Tim even though you’re were like, “Umm hello, that’s not my name.” And so we’re trying to get folks to understand that different pronouns exist, start thinking beyond the binary so that we can respect all the folks on this campus.

JACKSON: This has been Cassidy Jackson, thank you for listening.

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