Following changes in student leadership and a consequent redesign of the club, Bowdoin Queer-Straight Alliance (BQSA) is transforming this year’s OUTtober celebration to include more small social gatherings that bring together a range of queer experiences rather than large scale events.
First created by BQSA three years ago, OUTtober is a month for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies to share their experiences and celebrate all genders and sexual orientations.
Yesterday, a group of LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff met to share cupcakes and coming out stories. Tonight, Boody Johnson House will host a dialogue between diverse students from the LGBTQIA+ community who are not in the BQSA.
The organization’s new leader, Rahul Prabhu ’22, is one of the architects behind the club’s redesign. He even had a conversation with other club members regarding whether or not BQSA should host OUTtober at all, given the past focus on large events.
“On the one hand, we [are] this new BQSA: [we are] changing everything [and are implementing a] new mission statement,” said Prabhu. “On the other hand, we wanted to be respectful to the history of queer activism [at Bowdoin] and the queers who were on this campus [before]. OUTtober can still be these small events where allies and queer kids can find community.”
The new tentative mission statement emphasizes that the club should be an outlet to promote activism for students with a diverse experience of being queer or allied and to celebrate intersectional identities of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Prabhu explained that there’s a small number of people in the LGBTQIA+ community on campus and an even smaller number of people who feel the need to be activists. However, for Prabhu and others involved in the BQSA, being activists about their sexuality is a very important and liberating aspect of their college experience.
“Throughout high school, [when] I was a semi-closeted gay teenager in India, I [couldn’t] wait to go to the U.S. and be in college and get involved with queer life, but I didn’t feel like I had any thing in common with the queer kids who were leading queer life [at Bowdoin],” said Prabhu. “I want to really appreciate and celebrate the diversity of queer life, so a big goal for the BQSA is to create a platform where we’re not just talking about what it is to be queer but talking about how our other identities play into how we experience our queerness.”
This is not the first time OUTtober has undergone changes. Kate Stern, director of the Center for Sexuality, Women and Gender, noted that students used to celebrate ‘Gaypril’ when she first started working at Bowdoin, which soon evolved into ‘Februqueery’ to be more inclusive of the trans and non-binary community. It became OUTtober three years ago in order to welcome and inform new students about the queer community on campus at the beginning of the school year.
Beyond OUTtober, BQSA has plans to team up with affinity groups throughout the year to organize the “InterseQtionality” film series, with the “Q” indicating the series’ relation to queer identities.
According to Prabhu, the film series will show two films a semester that explore intersectionality between different sexual identities, races, disabilities and classes.