Out N' About club connects with other LGBTA groups at conference
Without the organization Out ‘N’ About, Leslie Boker wouldn’t have the perfect safe place. Without this, Boker wouldn’t have many close friends. Without this, Boker wouldn’t have found a partner of two and a half years, and they wouldn’t be engaged.
“We’re really into building connections with people and making sure that everybody has somebody to talk to no matter what is going on,” said Boker, president of Grand Valley State University’s Out ‘N’ About. “For me, it changed everything, and I know that it can do that for other people too.”
Out ‘N’ About is an organization that offers a “safe space” to anyone in need, specifically LGBTQIA students (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allies).
“We’re here for anybody who wants to be in a safe space regardless of who they are,” club treasurer Scott Trumbo said. “We just want to cater to that and just make sure that everybody feels safe.”
This weekend, the organization attended the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference in Kansas City, Mo.
“One of the best things about the conference is that you know that people are going to respect your identity,” Boker said.
The three-day conference, which is the largest LGBTA college conference in the nation, consisted of more than 90 educational workshops that focused on various topics affecting the LGBTA community. Speakers also presented to the 1,700 attending students.
For the first time, Out ‘N’ About sent four students to the conference, and it plans to bring students every year from here on out.
Boker intends to present at next year’s conference in Chicago.
“I want to talk about visualizing gender,” Boker said. “Making metaphors for gender that people can understand.”
The weekly Wednesday meetings in the Kirkhof Center at 9 p.m. consist of talking about LGBTQIA-related issues, community-building activities and event planning.
The most recent event was the drag fashion show in October, which helped raise money to attend the conference. The club will also host its popular Pride Prom on April 4 at 7 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center Pere Marquette Room. The prom allows people to bring their partners to a dance, which is an opportunity that some didn’t have in high school. This year’s theme is “supermarket,” which will tie in with a food drive to be held at the dance.
The organization embraces the support it receives from the university and other on-campus organizations. The GVSU Student Senate is currently pushing for more gender neutral bathrooms, which is something Out ‘N’ About has always reinforced.
“We’ve been really supportive of the Student Senate moving in that direction,” Trumbo said.
Out ‘N’ About looks to change the gender-related expectations in the conservative West Michigan area through the organization and the support of others.
“We’re building community for LGBT students. Community that they might not have had at home, or the support that they might not have had at home,” Boker said. “Here we’ve got more than one resource, we’ve got the LGBT center and our organization, and the school can be relied on to help advocate for us.”