Let’s talk about how to support the LGBTQIA+ community

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The University of Connecticut Rainbow Center hosted an event titled “Let’s Talk About That: LGBTQIA+” last night to discuss and bring awareness to the intersex community, cultural appropriation and identity erasure. Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The University of Connecticut Rainbow Center hosted an event titled “Let’s Talk About That: LGBTQIA+” last night to discuss and bring awareness to the intersex community, cultural appropriation and identity erasure.  

The first topic discussed was the history of intersex people and how to express solidarity.  

Intersex people are those who were born with characteristics of both sexes. 

The presentation emphasized the important differences between transgender and intersex people.   

Transgender people are distinct from intersex people because they are people who identify with a different sex than the one they were assigned at birth. Many transgender people elect to undergo medical intervention to more closely align with their identity and some do not.  

Intersex people, however, have often been misled or forced to have medical intervention to align them with the binary sexes, an instance of medical malpractice often referred to as sex or gender verification. There have been frequent cases of this in athletics.  

“Adding to what you said about the medical field, it’s really unfortunate to see these kinds of biases manifest within careers,” said Emily Perri, a participant in the event. “One of my classes had a presentation about diversity in law, and there’s definitely a lot of work to be done there.” 

“Adding to what you said about the medical field, it’s really unfortunate to see these kinds of biases manifest within careers. One of my classes had a presentation about diversity in law, and there’s definitely a lot of work to be done there.”

Emily Perri, Event Participant

According to Makayla Dawkins, a Rainbow Center staff member, a good way to show solidarity to the intersex community is to inform friends and family, work with organizations in the intersex community, call out discrimination and avoid fetishization. 

Identity erasure is also a common problem for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Identity erasure was defined as “the tendency to overlook certain LGBTQIA+ identities or experiences.” 

Common targets of this in the LBGTQIA+ community are people who identify as lesbian, bisexual and asexual. These groups are often mislabeled or told their sexualities are a phase or the result of confusion. 

There was also a discussion on the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.  

Cultural appropriation is a lack of acknowledgment or “inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices and ideas of one people or society by members of another and typically by more dominant people of society.” Cultural appreciation differs by respectfully acknowledging these customs and learning about them.  

A depiction of cultural appropriation of a white women appropriating Indigenous culture. Cultural appropriation is a lack of acknowledgment or “inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices and ideas of one people or society by members of another and typically by more dominant people of society. Photo courtesy of Onyx Truth.

A prominent example of cultural appropriation is the popularity of voguing, popularized by Madonna.  

According to David Abadom, a Rainbow Center staff member, voguing originated in the ballrooms of Harlem in the 1980s. Balls began when BIPOC people in the LGBTQIA+ community were shut out of White spaces in the LGBTQIA+ community.  

The provided example of cultural appreciation was Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” which showcased African culture and artists from Africa. Abadom said Madonna could have avoided cultural appropriation by including BIPOC transgender women in her music video, for example.  

Abadom said some ways to stop cultural appropriation would be to maintain respect if invited to the space, do research on the customs and acknowledge the creators.  

Allyship was further discussed, and a staff member noted that a good way to be an ally is to remember to be mindful of language, reflect on impact versus intent and center the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community in your activism.  

“Allyship is so universal,” said Tatyanna Molina, another Rainbow Center staff member. “Many people don’t realize that bias affects every person and career.” 

“Allyship is so universal. Many people don’t realize that bias affects every person and career.”

Tatyanna Molina, Rainbow Center Staff Member

Molina also addressed the difference between he/they and she/they pronouns.  

“Oftentimes people’s identity extends past the gender binary, but they still feel comfortable using gendered pronouns,” Molina said. 

A participant raised concerns over division in the LGBTQIA+ community and members of the community feeling the need to prove themselves.  

Identity erasure is often linked to this, as well as racism and sexism, according to Molina. Many people who identify as lesbian, bisexual or asexual especially feel this need to prove themselves to others, she said.  

Dawkins said people often tend to assume LGBTQIA+ people have to have a certain “look,” and this contributes to the pressure.  

“Queerness doesn’t have a look,” she said.  

When it came to the topic of UConn’s acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community, participants and moderators both felt that the university wasn’t doing as much as possible.  

Abadon said it seems to be more performative than actually accepting, citing the recent racial incidents on campus as another example of the university’s behavior.   

“UConn needs to do better,” he said. “That’s just my opinion.” 

The Rainbow Center will be hosting more events throughout the semester virtually.  

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