As the end of September concludes students’ first month back in school, Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (BQSA) looks forward to its fourth annual OUTtober.
OUTtober is a month of programming open to both LGBTQIA+ students and allies. Celebrating in the month of October was a change introduced deliberately four years ago from Februqueery in the hope of expanding the range of identities and setting a tone of inclusivity for for first-year students, striving to spread the message that Bowdoin is an accepting environment for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.
Normally, OUTtober programming consists of OUTallies and OUTpeer training, movie screenings as part of the InterseQtionality Film Series, a questioning group led by Sexuality, Women and Gender (SWAG) Center Director Kate Stern, on-campus speakers and a larger social event hosted by BQSA.
Many of these events will remain relatively unchanged. OUTallies and OUTpeer training will still be available for students both on and off campus, and Stern will host the questioning group, a resource for students looking to explore their identities, over Zoom.
“If there are students who aren’t out yet, or aren’t quite sure where they’re at, they can reach out to me,” said Stern in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “For people looking for some support and connection around that, they can reach out to me as well. The questioning group does not have a specific date.”
BQSA will also be showing the movie “Pariah,” about a young Black lesbian woman, as part of the InterseQtionality Film Series. The on-campus speakers and social events, however, are no longer available options.
BQSA leader Rahul Prabhu ’22 explained that this year’s COVID-19 related restrictions have not only disrupted event planning, but have also pushed BQSA to more thoroughly consider its role in Bowdoin’s community.
“The effect of COVID-19 on BQSA has been less about logistics and more about thinking hard about our relevance during this time,” wrote Prabhu in an email to the Orient. “BQSA’s main purpose has been to build community among queer and allied students at Bowdoin. COVID-19 and remote learning has forced all of us to reinvent the form that community takes, and BQSA has had to closely evaluate its own role in this process.”
“It can also be difficult to engage with community hundreds or even thousands miles away, during a time of the much larger issues of a pandemic, of institutionalized racism, of the U.S. presidential election, the impending doom of a climate crisis, among other things that students have to deal with,” Prabhu added.
Prabhu also wrote that BQSA is hoping to use OUTtober programming to raise awareness about the dynamics of race in queer settings. Additionally, he plans to make greater use of social media to run awareness campaigns and celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11.
“OUTtober is a great time to celebrate being out, and a great way to celebrate the out community,” said Stern. “People come out to who they want, when they want, how they want and there’s no right or wrong way or time, and there’s no shame.”