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Friday, April 12, 2024
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Q&A: UW GSCC discusses fostering community space for LGBTQ+ students

UW GSCC director and program coordinator spoke about community building events for the LBGTQ+ community on campus.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Gender and Sexuality Campus Center (GSCC) works to support and foster community among UW’s trans and queer students. The organization planned a day-long community-building event and trans film festival on Oct. 24, the same time as conservative commentator Matt Walsh’s talk at Memorial Union. GSCC organized several other initiatives throughout the fall to support LBGTQ+ students on campus.

Last week GSCC celebrated their 30th birthday, National Coming Out Day and LGBTQ+ history month through their “We Are Here” event, which included a panel of speakers who traced the history of LGBTQ+ activism on campus. Warren Scherer, director of UW GSCC, has worked with the organization for almost five years and helps to advocate for LGBTQ+ students on campus through his role. Whitney Anderson, program coordinator at UW GSCC, plans programming for LGBTQ+ students to provide tangible resources and community-building activities. 

Scherer and Anderson both spoke with the Daily Cardinal about the importance of the organization on campus. To stay connected with UW GSCC, students are encouraged to join the newsletter, follow UW GSCC (@uwgscc) on social media and join their Discord server.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How are you guys doing today?

Scherer (per/pers): It is National Coming Out Day and we are actively celebrating. Holding space with and for oodles of students, I think that is a mathematically solid number, and it’s great — the energy is good, the vibe is good.

Could you both give a brief introduction to your role in UW GSCC, and UW GSCC’s role on campus?

Anderson (she/her): I am the program coordinator of the GSCC. My role focuses on the community building, team portofolio of the office — so helping to plan and facilitate and assist different programs. Like Scherer mentioned, today is National Coming Out Day. We have a whole range of events going on and some other ones later this month that I can get into later.

Scherer: I am the director of UW GSCC, been here almost 5 years. I am responsible for the mission and vision and oversight of the campus center, ensuring that we are remaining true to our purpose in supporting and advocating for the needs of LGBTQ students in our communities as well as liasoning to the rest of campus on behalf of LGBTQ+ students and their communities.

What was the inspiration behind holding an event the entire day while Matt Walsh will be holding a talk at Memorial Union?

Scherer: Acknowledging what our purpose is and what our purview is on campus. Recognizing that students were clearly communicating impact we wanted to be proactive in providing and defining space that was supportive and affirming. One of the ways to address when marginalized and minoritized populations encounter discrimination and harrassment is to counteract that ostracization, counteract that compelling of isolation with the exact opposite. To remind people that they are in community and that they are not alone. 

That is what the CC On the Move event is, or the Campus Center on the move event on the 24th is all about: to provide space for folks to gather and to be in community, to cultivate a sense of belonging, to be affirmed. To encounter micro affirmations instead of microaggressions.

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Anderson: This was a series that I think last time it was active it was pre-Covid, so we are excited to bring it back. Some context — last month in September we had CC On the Move when we joined Rec Well in the new Nick facility, specifically their pool. So, we had a pool party for queer and trans students and their friends. 

This month, it is going to be CC on Move on the 24th in the Social Justice Hub, which is a part of the office of Inclusion and Education which is a sibling office of ours here in the realm of student affairs offices. So we are excited to have that day there.

Then next month in November, we will be having a queer cooking class in Witte in the center for cultural enrichment. So again to the premise of CC on the move — yes, the goal is for queer and trans students to engage with our office either online or in person, but also going to these different campus locations that are outside of our location to get queer and trans students familiar, comfortable and knowledgable with all the campus has to offer, including their physical spaces of course.

How do you hope this event will help to support individuals whose identities are threatened by Matt Walsh’s rhetoric and persona?

Scherer: The message that I would like to land is that LGBTQ+ students, primarily trans and non-binary students, are not alone on campus — that they are supported and affirmed, that there is a broad community here on campus and in the wider Madison community that sees them, that recongnizes their identities as valid and embraces the fullness of their humanity, and appreciates their existence.

I think folks will encounter a variety of connections and referral resources while they are there and encounter affirming both from individuals but also from the films that we are screening that evening.

Anderson: A word that I wrote down yesterday when I was prepping was “nourishing.” I hope that students are feeling nourished and enriched, and also supported and affirmed. So everything that Scherer said, just adding on that they are feeling connected to one another, to our office, to different campus and community resources and that is overall just a nourishing experience and day for them.

I saw on the UW GSCC Instagram that a variety of films will be shown. What films will be shown, and what is the rationale for putting on these films? Also, how else will this event involve other queer organizations on campus?

Scherer: We [in the Campus Center] discussed a variety of films both by folks within trans/nonbinary communities and films that centered trans/nonbinary narratives that are told from a different perspecitve — that reflect the fullness of the experience. So, lots of internal, behind the scenes conversation and negotiating. One of the factors was what we could get the screening rights to.

The two films that we landed on are the films “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” about Marsha P. Johnson, an icon in LGBTQ+ movements. Marsha P. Johnson is noted as the person who threw the first brick in the Stonewall uprising in New York, so a Black trans woman. The second film is “Tangerine”.

There are some 21+ LGBTQ+ organizations that are affiliated with the campus center. We are partnering with and advertising the event with all of those organizations. We are in regular contact with them. We are actually meeting with all of those organizations before the event on the 24th launches. 

We are also making sure that all of our town relationships know about our events on the 24th, so that would include organizations like OutReach, Freedom, Inc., GSAFE and so on and so forth. And then campus based entities, so we are partnering with University Health Services and Financial Aid — so we are working with a number of folks to have staff drop in to answer questions of that nature.

Anderson: “Tangerine” is a film from 2015 that follows the life experiences and struggles and perspectives specifically of a Black trans woman. So again, going along with the theme, that is what “Tangerine” is about.

Do you guys have anything else you would like to add or talk about in regards to the event and your organization? Any summarizing thoughts on the impact of the Oct. 24 event and UW GSCC going beyond that?

Scherer: I would highlight that there is a ton going on for LBGTQ students to plug into and get connected to. If I highlight a few things, today is National Coming Out Day. A national celebration started in 1987. We mark the LGBTQ+ rights march in D.C. to today, so we are absolutely celebrating today. We have already seen over 50 students engage with our events today. We also have an event next Tuesday, Oct. 18, called “We Are Here”. 

It is LGBTQ history month, and the Campus Center is also experiencing its 30th anniversary or its 30th birthday. On the 18th we are highlighting a journey through the history of LGBTQ activism here at UW-Madison, ranging from the early ‘90s to today. 

With a panel including the UW GSCC founder, Allnisa Allgood, and the principal student organizer of the ROTC protests in the early 1990s, all the way up to the most recent ASM chair and a current organizer on campus. We are highlighting all of those history things for folks to plug into and look at acts of resistance for and by LGBTQ+ people in UW-Madison’s history. We have a couple other events that folks can get plugged into and encounter affirmation.

Anderson: Another signature program is going to be Trans Monologues. This happens every November, and it's really a night of centering the experiences and perspectives and words and art from specifically trans folks, students, community members, etc. That’s going to be at the Madison Public Library on Friday, Nov. 18. We are super excited that that is coming up next month. 

We also engage with what students are interested in, so again, providing them opportunities to be in community together and to provide that community. We are taking a group of students to the pumpkin patch this coming Sunday, and we did that last year and students really enjoyed that. We are also having a Halloween contest party extravasa on Thursday, the 27th of this month, so again that is going to be in the evening. It’s going to be a fun night first of all, but also it's going to be a sober alternative for students to engage in understanding the time of year and the holliday. 

We are also doing some other things, like a queer cooking class. We are going to be hosting a clothing swap next week to again getting queer and trans students and their communities connected to tangible life skills like cooking or tangible resources like a clothing swap. A way for students to keep engaged with us is to join our Discord server that has over 600 LGBTQ+ students engaged on, to follow us on social media, to sign up on social media, to really choose their level of engagement with us — but we highlight all of those events on all of those platforms regularly. 

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Noe Goldhaber

Noe Goldhaber is the college news editor and former copy chief for the Daily Cardinal. She is a statistics major and has reported on a wide range of campus issues. Follow her on Twitter at @noegoldhaber.

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