As the leaves change and the air cools, another fall tradition is returning to campus: “OUTouber.” The month-long celebration, hosted by the Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (BQSA) and the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG), consists of a series of events throughout the month of October honoring National Coming Out Day and LGBTQIA+ acceptance.
A busy slate of programming strives to welcome all students, regardless of identity, and promote activism and awareness toward LGBTQIA+ issues.
“One of the roles of the BQSA is to just be here as a space for students who identify as queer and who identify as allies to gather and do political activism and activism generally,” BQSA President Lily Tedford ’22 said. “For the first time, we’ve been focusing on the ally aspect of the club and really emphasizing our goals in terms of allyship.”
Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion & Diversity and Director of the Center for Sexuality, Women and Gender Kate Stern stressed that OUTober is less about if an individual is out or not and more about introducing the supportive community on campus.
“[It is] a welcome to Bowdoin. [This] is a place you can be out if you want to be out. You don’t have to be. There’s no pressure, but [it shows students] different ways to engage, and you have some agency in figuring out how that works for you,” Stern said.
Although the BQSA and SWAG often plan events in collaboration with each other, sometimes the student-led club and center have different objectives.
“We do things with different goals on campus. [The BQSA] might plan a party at a college house in a way SWAG wouldn’t do,” Stern said. “Some things we do together can either be more educational or fun.”
Last Thursday, the BQSA helped SWAG organize a screening and virtual panel discussion of “Changing the Game,” a documentary about three high school transgender athletes. Both organizations also booked Curbside Queens, a traveling drag show, to perform on Osher Quad last Friday. However, the College’s COVID-19 status forced them to make some minor adjustments.
“We were going to throw an ‘everyone’s welcome’ kind of party after Curbside Queens, but then we were in Yellow status, so that couldn’t happen,” Tedford said.
Although some programming has been altered due to the College’s shifting COVID-19 status, other events were able to proceed like years past.
“We kicked off the month by chalking a little portion of the quad. We set some chalk out and wrote a few affirming notes and positive messages,” Tedford said. “A few people stopped by and said that it was a really nice thing to see on their way to class, and a lot of people did write their own messages. Faculty walked by. Students walked by. It was a happy, fun moment.”
The BQSA is currently planning its next large activity, a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which will take place at the end of the month. In collaboration with the BQSA, SWAG is also planning on hosting a Cupcakes and Coming Out Stories event where students, faculty and staff can share their stories.
“It will be a great community connection to bring together OUTober and give some closure to the month,” Stern said.
Stern believes that the benefit of having OUTober early in the school year is that it can introduce LGBTQIA+ students and allies to the resources and safe spaces Bowdoin has to offer.
“Even if you’re a student who isn’t out or isn’t ready to be out, know there’s a place when you’re ready, if you’re ready, to connect with a community,” Stern said.
Tedford added that OUTober’s impact can spread far beyond the College.
“[It’s about] seeing that we can do something in the real world, too,” Tedford said. “Whether that’s just by learning more or actually making phone calls to your legislators where there are anti-trans high school athlete bills, we’re not just confined to Bowdoin’s campus.”