Each year, Bowdoin builds vibrant community among LGBTQ+ students and staff with “OUTober,” the annual celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month on campus. Through a series of events including trivia nights, hikes and several guest lecturers, the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) celebrates the LGBTQ+ community at Bowdoin and beyond.
SWAG student director and Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) co-leader Alena Lemeshova ’26 emphasized the importance of the consistent programing and events offered for OUTober in building a more supportive and organized LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“I would say the main goal for the programming for this month is to start a tradition of centering more around the LGBTQ+ community and to have more events related to the people who [identify with it] at Bowdoin,” Lemeshova said. “Because [the community is] actually a lot of people, but I feel like it really isn’t as connected as it could be.”
Director of SWAG Natalie Turrin admires the student-led effort to foster a safe space for LGBTQ+ students through programming in OUTober. While some events will include traditional SWAG-sponsored events like Quinner (queer dinner), Turnin is also excited for student groups to collaborate and engage with SWAG programming. The House of Hearts, Bowdoin’s aromantic and asexual affinity group, and the QSA will be co-hosting this month’s Quinner.
On Wednesday, SWAG celebrated one of the most important days of LGBTQ+ History Month—Coming Out Day, which was gender-reveal party themed.
“The idea is that we are hoping to ‘queer’ the gender reveal party. We take some of the activities, the theme, the aesthetic of a gender reveal party and perhaps put a twist on it in commemoration of a really important day for a lot of queer people,” Turnin said.
The celebration included “gender reveal” cupcakes, a photo booth and a series of interactive activities as well as the more initiative-focused Gender Matters event shortly after the party, where students had the opportunity to voice concerns and offer proposals for programming to student directors.
“I feel like we live in a society that really encourages us to hide parts of our identity,” attendee Elias McEaneney ’27 said. “I normally consider stuff like [a Gender Reveal Party] kinda silly, but it’s nice to know that there’s a social event for trans and gender-nonconforming folks to meet each other.”
A range of student directors are also coming together to strengthen the ties between the LGBTQ+ community and its allies throughout the month. The Bowdoin Outing Club is working with SWAG on some OUTober events, including a s’mores night this evening and a hike at Cliff Trail on October 22.
Beyond OUTober programming, QSA hopes to introduce new annual events such as a Pride Prom Night, which is planned for this November.
“We just really hope the students, no matter their class year, are going to come join us and get involved,” Lemeshova said. “We are trying our best to come up with fun ideas and fun events and proposals for the future, so it would be really nice to get engagement from students.”
In addition to student programming, several guest lecturers will be invited to offer new perspectives for LGBTQ+ History Month. Poet and publisher Beatrix Gates will be coming to the College on October 19 to give a lecture and read a selection of poems. Additionally, L.J. Roberts, Bowdoin’s halley k harrisburg ’90 and Michael Rosenfeld artist-in-residence, will be leading an interactive art workshop on October 20 for the exhibition “Postcards From the Edge.” In this event, students will make original art with Roberts that will be auctioned and displayed to benefit the nonprofit organization Visual AIDS, which supports artists diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Turrin hopes that this month becomes a time for students to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and find a familial warmth on campus from the members within it.
“A lot of events or programs centered on gender and sexuality deal with really difficult subject matter,” Turrin said. “Those events and initiatives and programs are important, but it’s also important to take time to celebrate, to build community and to highlight and strengthen our resilience and resolve.”
Editor’s Note October 15, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this article wrongfully reported that guest lecturers are brought in by SWAG. The guest lecturers are being hosted by the College, not SWAG.