The Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) this week announced the debut of a new program called Affirming @ Bowdoin: All Genders All Sexualities, which will replace SWAG’s former OUTPeers and OUTAllies program. The workshop will be led by Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Diversity and Director of SWAG Kate Stern.
For the past thirteen years, OUTPeers and OUTAllies have focused on discussing how to be a supportive LGBTQ+ peer and ally on campus. Affirming @ Bowdoin looks to build on these workshops, but with an emphasis on creating affirming spaces on campus.
“We want to preserve the original message from earlier workshops, while emphasizing the need to grow as a campus. Affirming @ Bowdoin is the next step in this process, and our emphasis on affirmation is very intentional. It gets at the idea that our campus can do more to support queer people, since we felt as though our earlier model of ‘safe spaces’ was unnecessarily limiting,” SWAG Student Director Rubin Jones ’22 wrote in an email to the Orient.
“Why settle for a series of ‘safe spaces’ when we can, and should, cultivate a larger environment that actively embraces and affirms queer people? We owe it to our queer classmates, faculty, staff and community to ensure not only their safety, but their inclusion and sense of belonging as well.”
The first half of Affirming @ Bowdoin will be similar to OUTPeers and OUTAllies, as attendees will learn about themes of sexuality and gender. The second half will feature discussions about how to create affirming spaces and how to foster those conversations elsewhere on campus. Stern hopes that attendees will leave with at least two specific takeaways.
“One would be just understanding sexuality and gender. Even if they are queer themselves, they may not have thought about what it means to be asexual. Or they may not have thought about what it means to be pansexual. Or they may not have thought about what it means to be trans or non-binary. So everybody could leave learning something new,” Stern said.
“But then also with an idea of ‘what can I do? How can I be part of creating an affirming and welcoming community?’”
Students can choose to attend one of two sessions offered to them—one on October 18 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and the other on October 22 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Staff and faculty can choose between attending on November 17 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. or November 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Anyone who previously attended OUTPeers or OUTAllies is not expected to attend the new workshop, though they are encouraged to. Students who attend Affirming @ Bowdoin or who attended OUTPeers or OUTAllies will receive a sticker with the name of the new workshop on it.
“If people already did OUTPeers and OUTAllies and they could just tell me that, I can give them a new sticker. Or, if they want to come and embrace this new frame or get a little bit of a refresh, they’re absolutely welcome,” Stern said. “People can choose to come even if they already went, but they don’t have to—I’ll get them the new sticker, and we’ll hopefully see a lot of affirming stickers and affirmation out in the world.”