Last year in November, feeling disheartened about the election’s results and looking to find solace in a community that would understand my struggles, I went to one of the NYU LGBTQ center’s meetings, “CampGrrl.” It’s a student club “for self-identified lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women and their allies,” according to NYU’s website. There were about 15 students there. I didn’t speak at all the whole time. One of the freshmen took center stage, speaking loudly and frequently, while others sat uncomfortably. I was not the only newcomer, but there wasn’t much of a formal welcome. I left with no intention of coming back, almost embarrassed that I had gone. I wondered why, in a school of 26,000 undergraduate students, there were only 15 people at the meeting. Where was everyone else?
As a gay woman, I haven’t been able to find a strong queer community at NYU at all. While I am fortunate enough to have come from an accepting hometown with a loving family and wonderful girlfriend at home, I know not many others experienced the world similarly to myself.
SafeZone trainings, personally, don’t seem to be much help either. SafeZone trainings are an extensive three-hour course on how to be an ally, which feels more like the fulfillment of a liberal college check mark than anything else. I have never used someone who is SafeZone trained as a resource, partly because the resources themselves don’t feel very useful. It looks great on paper, sure — and LGBTQ students looking to find an open and supportive school are likely to put NYU on their shortlist.
The problem runs much deeper than a lack of effective resources for students. There is a lack of diversity in the voices that are heard from the LGBTQ community overall, something I realized when recruiting writers for this issue. I jokingly said last night that we should have called this issue the “LG” issue. No B, no T, no Q. I struggled to find a wide representation of LGBTQ writers who could truly encapsulate the reality of being queer at NYU. I wound up with three white males and myself — the sole “L” of the equation — as WSN’s representation of the LGBTQ community. My hopes for this issue were to encapsulate a wide range of experiences within the community, but I think that even just the representation in this spread says a lot.
I write this not to discredit or invalidate the narratives of the writers of this themed issue, but to recognize that they were the ones I could find to write for me, the ones open and ready to share their stories — to recognize that, while their stories are as valid as anyone else’s in the LGBTQ community, theirs are often the loudest and the most listened to. Nonetheless, I had an amazing time working with these three individuals and am excited to share with you all what they had to say. However, I hope that whoever takes on the challenge of heading the LGBTQ issue next year has a wider selection of stories to choose from and that other members of the community feel that they have a platform on which they can safely and comfortably speak and share. There are so many stories that we need to hear.
— Laura Shkouratoff, Creative Director