Tuesday, October 6th, Madison Equality–JMU’s only LGBTQ+ student run organization on campus– held it’s first semester event, The Out On Campus Panel.
The Out On Campus Panel reaches out to individuals involved in Madison Equality, as well as the general student body. It brings forth a number of educational aspects by providing JMU’s own student testimonies on their identities and experiences at our school.
Madison Equality’s executive board has two co-educational coordinators. One facilitates the panel while the other co-educational coordinator sat on the panel with five other individuals. Madison Equality panels predominantly start by going over this acronym with the audience: LGBTQIQAP+.
This takes up around the first half the panel. I’m going to give a quick snapshot of each identity. Disclaimer, these are the broad-based definitions of these identities, but everyone in the Queer community may identify with their specific identity differently.
The L, stands for Lesbian which are female-identified individuals who are attracted to other female identified individuals. The G stands for Gay which are male-identified individuals who are attracted to other male identified individuals.
The B stands for Bisexual Individuals who are attracted to both male identified and female identified individuals, and sometimes other individuals who are non-binary.
The T stands for Trans, which is a constellation term because so many different identities form it, but in the broadest terms that I can define it would be individuals who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth in their gender identity. This can range from individuals who may be born as having a female sex, but identity as male, OR it can encompass an individual who is gender-fluid and sometimes feels more masculine, feminine or even agender at any given time. Rain, one of the panelists went on to say, “Gender is inherent to ourselves, so it is a very personal thing, but it’s also completely socially constructed.”
The Q stands for Queer, another constellation term. Terrell, another of the panelists, identified the term as meaning anything but straight.
The I stands for Intersex, Emily, another panelist defined the term by “a variation in sex characteristics (chromosomes, hormones, and genitalia) that don’t fit within the confines of strictly male or female.”
The second Q stands for Questioning, and means exactly how it sounds. Anyone can be questioning at anytime, whether it’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The A stands for Asexual, encompassing individuals experiencing no sexual attraction. Sexual attraction ranges on a spectrum from experiencing sexual attraction to not experiencing it. It includes identities in between known as gray-asexual, which encompasses identities such as demisexual, that gain sexual attraction over time.
The P stands for Pansexual, which are attracted to all genders.
Emily touched on the fact that sexual attraction and romantic attraction don’t always match. Sexual identities and gender identities are completely separate. Someone could be Homo-Romantic (attracted to the same sex), and Pansexual, (attracted to all genders).
I’m going to go ahead and throw out another disclaimer. All of these identities could have their own individual blog posts and still would not have enough space to clearly define everything about them. That’s the beauty of these identities, they are self-defined, and ever-changing. They encompass a wide variety of aspects of a person. In no way were any of them completely defined.
The co-educational coordinators passed out index cards for the audience to ask questions next, and after going over the acronym the panelist spent the rest of the time answering those questions.
One of the questions that was asked about the gendered bathrooms here at JMU. Rain, a trans identified individual, said it’s his least favorite part of his day. There aren’t enough gender neutral bathrooms on campus, and he actually gets excited when he sees one. That’s honestly a little sad.
One of the other questions that stood out to me was about straight-shaming. Panelist CJ answered this question so elegantly. Basically he stated that we live in a hetero-normative society, you can’t be shamed if you are at the top of that specific privilege sect. He brought in also being Black, and the white privilege that exists in our society.
One individual asked about the JMU community in regards to if people felt like JMU is an accepting community to LGBTQ+ individuals. Throughout the entire Panel all 6 individuals agree that the JMU community is tolerant, but not accepting. JMU that is something we need to continue to work on. I believe you have to be the change in the world, so let’s get to it.
Some final takeaways that some of the panelists said were do not assume, there’s a lot of diversity within the queer identity, don’t be afraid to ask questions but also educate yourself, be accepting of individuals with multiple labels, understand everything is fluid, and lastly be nice. Be a good human being and respect other people.
This blog post did not do the Out on Campus nearly as much justice as it deserved. Definitely keep a look out for the Spring Semester’s out on campus panel. It’s a great way to educate yourself, and help to establish a more accepting environment. here at James Madison.