Multicultural Student Affairs, Rainbow Alliance emphasize healing for Queer and Trans Empowerment Month


Courtesy of Rainbow Alliance

Virtual painting of the Rock. Rainbow Alliance and MSA held a virtual coloring of the Rock as a way to continue the annual tradition.

Yunkyo Kim and Alex Chun

This year’s Queer and Trans Empowerment Month is all about accessible healing.

Northwestern traditionally celebrates October, nationally known as LGBT History Month, with programming to emphasize the intersectional queer and trans community.

However, organizers at Multicultural Student Affairs and Rainbow Alliance are thinking differently about how to serve LGBTQ+ students during a remote quarter. MSA’s Queer and Trans Empowerment Month programming focuses even more on wellness, Assistant Director Matt Abtahi said.

“We recognize that on top of homework due tomorrow, our communities, as well as really the entire Northwestern community, (are) carrying a lot, each and every day,” Abtahi said. “Our hope is (that) programming becomes a space of refuge for our students, a space of rest, a space of recharge.”

In the past, MSA had provided open-ended gatherings where attendees could steer the direction of the given events. Now, Abtahi said, the center is being intentional to create a “moment of pause” for queer students “going through the motions” during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, MSA held a virtual march for trans visibility and coffee hour featuring Northwestern’s queer activists of the 1970s. More recently, it hosted artist Peregrine Bermas in a workshop where attendees learned how to utilize medicinal plants to boost immune systems.

Gabriel Guzmán, an MSA graduate assistant who led the herbalism workshop, said they felt it was important to teach natural medicine making as the winter approaches.

In addition to wellness, the center has been holding spaces for intersectional groups within the queer community, such as a meeting for queer Latinx students which Guzmán led. Forthcoming initiatives include an informational workshop on intersex identity as well as campaigning for asexual awareness.

“Some of our programming has definitely expanded in terms of the MSA not necessarily hosting themselves, but really bridging and bringing in community voices (through collaboration with student groups).”

This includes groups like Rainbow Alliance, which, together with MSA, held a virtual coloring of the Rock Oct. 9 as a way to continue the tradition of painting the Rock rainbow during its annual Rainbow Week.

Using the annotation feature on Zoom, attendees were able to draw on The Rock collaboratively without having to print out the outline, increasing accessibility, Rainbow Alliance External President Dori Carter said.

“Little things like that wouldn’t have been able to happen in person, like, we wouldn’t have all gone on, gotten onto a Zoom call,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “It was kind of nice to take the opportunity to use whatever tools were available to reach more people, and have a good time together.”

In addition to working with MSA, the student group also collaborates with For Members Only twice a month.

Both Carter and Abtahi noted that engagement for Queer and Trans Empowerment Month has been positive, with MSA reporting about the same number of virtual attendees compared to that of physical attendees in previous years.

Going beyond October, Abtahi said they hope the University commits to making Northwestern a “navigatable and inclusive experience” for trans and nonbinary students in particular. This includes follow through the suggestions of the GQNBT Task Force, which recommended the University prioritize genderqueer, nonbinary and transgender well being, access to facilities and reaffirmation of names and identities.

“Why so much of our programming is about healing is because we know our student population, time and time again, are facing barriers, sometimes (as a) result of Northwestern, sometimes a result of our state, or our nation,” Abtahi said. “And it is my hope that as a community, we can commit to this population wholeheartedly.”

Correction: A previous version of the story misstated Dori Carter’s year at Northwestern. Carter is a sophomore, not a junior. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @yunkyomoonk


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