May 2016. I majored in Computer Science and minored in WGS.
Can you describe your experience as a queer student and activist during your time at OU?
I came out as queer during my sophomore year at OU and started going to the GLBTF student organization and to LGBTQ programs events, which for me was a great way to get to know other people in the community and find support at OU. That same year I went to my first Take Root conference, where I learned about inspiring work being done by activists in red states.
In early 2015, inspired by Take Root and by OU Unheard, some friends and I started Queer Inclusion on Campus, a student activist group. We were motivated by some problems we and our peers faced as LGBTQ students at OU, including microaggressions and cultural problems, like getting glared at when holding hands with our partners, and institutional problems, like trans students having difficulties adding their preferred names to university records.
We held a community meeting, did research, wrote a document outlining problem areas and suggestions, and had meetings with offices around campus. Of course, any change at OU requires the work of many people and groups, so I don’t want to claim that we single-handedly orchestrated specific changes, but we did participate in or start many discussions. For example, our request for an LGBTQ Resource Center influenced the opening of the LGBTQ Lounge on campus.
In 2015-2016, we started working more with other activist groups at OU and formed a coalition of Indigenous students, black students, Latinx students, queer students, and students with disabilities. Through the students in this coalition, I learned powerful lessons about organizing and collaboration that I’ll take with me in all my work going forward.
What are you doing now, and how did you get started doing it?
I live in Boston and work for a children’s online community called Scratch, where I interned throughout college. On Scratch, people ages 8+ share and discuss games, stories, and animations that they create. This might not seem related to sexuality and reproductive justice, but it totally is! We think it’s important that young people on Scratch can discuss topics that matter to them–and for some kids that means talking about their gender identities and sexual orientations, for example. Facilitating those conversions can be challenging, but it’s also really rewarding to work to create a welcoming and creative space for young people of all sorts of backgrounds and identities.
What advice do you have for current OU students?
It can be helpful to talk to alumni and talk to student activists at other universities. One of the challenges of student activism is that, when a wave of activists graduate and potentially move, some institutional knowledge gets lost. Also, it’s easy to pay attention only to OU and not to what’s happening at other colleges. What strategies have worked at other universities, or at OU in the past? What has been challenging? Also, knowing what policy changes students at other universities have successfully advocated for can be helpful argumentatively–“[Other Big 12 school] has [this new policy/resource], why don’t we?”