Queer Spaces

Queer \kwir\

1. a: worthless, counterfeit

b: questionable, suspicious

2. a: differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal

b: (1) eccentric, unconventional (2) mildly insane

c: absorbed or interested to an extreme or unreasonable degree; obsessed

d: (1) often disparaging : homosexual (2) sometimes offensive : gay

3. not quite well

This how Merriam-Webster defines queer, but Western Washington University’s Queer Club would disagree. One of the primary goals of the group is to define what it is to be queer, create understanding about each of its many facets, and build a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community. It seems to do all of these things quite well. Each week, the club discusses queer theory, creating a dialogue to help everyone better understand each other; and afterwards, people stick around to get together as friends and peers and be part of a great community.

Community can be a big deal for queer individuals. Society is not always kind, and allies often simply do not understand. Having a place to go where people have had experiences similar to your own is powerful and meaningful. Any community can have an impact of the people who are a part of it, but this is especially true for people with maginalized identities. Gathering for queer people exist everywhere, and every place has its own environment and community, but I am most familiar with the one at Western Washington University, so that is what I will be talking about.

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Walking into the meeting each Tuesday, the chairs are arranged in a welcoming circle. There is plenty of chatter as people wander in. The atmosphere is comfortable. Everyone know that this is a safe place. Just a bit past seven, the meeting starts and the room quiets down. Announcements are made for any upcoming events, then one by one, people share their names, pronouns, and headspace. The topic of the day is then brought to everyone to discuss.

The first hour of the meeting is spent on the topic. It begins with some simple education, designed to inform individuals who may not know as much about the given subject. This leads to the discussion questions. Everyone shares their experiences and insights, and discussing issues in the queer community. Sometimes things get a bit intense; people have a lot of stories to share, and many people have had to face a lot of hard realities. This can be intimidating to new comers; there is a fair bit of jargon and knowledge required to follow the conversation, let alone participate. Everyone is happy to explain and give definitions, but is has been known to be off-putting to some individuals.

Queer theory, and learning about the different parts of the queer community, is important, and helps everyone learn, gain a greater understanding of the people around them, and become a closer community. Though, understandably, some individuals dislike this, and prefer to simply be with other queers.

The second hour is the “fun” part of the meeting. It is less structured and people can do whatever they want. Throughout the year, people can become quite close and this is the time for friend to meet up and talk, and be as queer as they want. Some people choose to continue the earlier conversation, some go home, but many stay for an hour or longer simply talking and having a good time.

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As a member of the queer community, finding people like me was one of the best things that has happened. The group has helped me to discover who I am, accept my identity, and become comfortable as part of a maginialized identity.

Queer communities can be amazingly supportive. The discussions are informative and interesting. People connect deeply with both the people at the meetings. Defining what it means to be queer and discovering identity are huge things for people under the MOGAI umbrella; but nothing can beat the community. Safe space are built in queer gatherings. They are places free of judgement and everyone is accepted exactly as they are. Overall, the Queer Club at Western, and MOGAI gatherings in general, are great places to be, and amazing communities to be a part of.

If you find yourself wanting support regarding your identity, and I mean any identity, look for a community to become a part of. Haveing those people around can be a powerful experience, and if worthwhile for anyone to look into.

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