I finally finished my first year at school, and it was an incredible experience. The first thing I did in my dorm room is put up a rainbow and lesbian flag. (The dorm building’s climate control was…not that great, so it made the dye on the lesbian flag sort of bleed onto the wall. So now there is a pink spot there. To remind all incoming first-year students that a lesbian was there.)
I found being a queer student at my university to be a great time. I got to engage in advocacy, celebrate my identity, and begin to pave the way for incoming queer and trans students as a Campus Ambassador.
My campus’ Sexuality and Gender Alliance held a Coming Out Day Dance Party, and the playlist was full of ABBA and Hayley Kiyoko songs, which made it the gayest playlist ever. I had a wonderful time dancing with all my buddies and waving around my rainbow flag because that’s just what I do.
Last October, I also got to mount The Heart/Fence Project at Drew. There were over 49 hearts created and hung around the academic building on campus. This is one of my favorite memories of my first semester.
As I have chronicled in previous blogs, I got to know the Methodist Church a bit more, as this is an important year as the organization at large was faced with questions of how to treat queer and trans church members and clergy. In the light of the February decision to uphold queerphobic and transphobic teachings, I got to see the pushback by queer- and trans-affirming advocates within my own circles and through connections online.
This year I also began the journey of being a Campus Ambassador and a Tour Guide. I had the opportunity to speak on panels about life at Drew, academics, and the programs. When questions were raised about what it is like for underrepresented students, I was able to say that as a member of the queer community, I felt safe at Drew, and my feeling of safety is part of why I picked Drew. It is so imperative that an incoming student is able to hear this affirming message loud and clear from a member of their community, and if not from an ambassador that is a member of these communities, then someone who has learned about the relevant issues for this group and can attest to the campus’s positive response to them.
Next year, I’ll be living in our campus’ feminist housing, participating in activism for gender equality. I am going to be helping on an interest board of a career program, and this group will be dedicated to connecting students with opportunities pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community. Hopefully I’ll be able to fit Women’s and Gender Studies course in, and in what little free time I have, work more on my play about lesbian identity! I loved being a first-year queer, but now it’s time to be a second-year queer!
About the Author:
Alyssa Sileo’s Thespian identity comes first and foremost in anything she carries out. As a member of the Drew University Class of 2022, she studies theatre arts, women’s and gender studies, and Spanish. She’s a proud NJ Thespian Alumni and member of their state chapter board. She is the leader of the international performances network The Laramie Project Project, which unites worldwide productions and readings of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play and encourages community-based LGBTQ+ advocacy. Alyssa is humbled to serve as the 2017 Spirit of Matthew Award winner and as a Youth Ambassador for Matthew Shepard Foundation. She believes there is an advocacy platform tucked into every piece of the theatre catalogue and intends to write outreach into the canon.