by Joey Phoenix (they/them/theirs)
For many, June is the only time of year where the public seems to make time for, hold space for, or even acknowledge the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth in their communities. But for universities in Massachusetts, one month of support isn’t enough – especially if school isn’t even in session during that time.
Campus LGBTQIA+ organizations like the Salem State University (SSU) Gender and Sexuality Alliance exist to advocate on behalf of student body members and fill in the gaps throughout the whole year. The Alliance in particular, led by President Abby Glidden (they/them/theirs), is dedicated to promoting acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community both on campus and on the North Shore
LGBTQIA+ Advocacy in The Details
While Glidden and the Alliance’s attention is focused on the students at Salem State University, they have recently expanded their role from a mere social collective to one of community education and political activism.
“This year has given us more reason and time to focus on advocacy,” said Glidden, mentioning that some of the initiatives the Alliance has been working to enact are the gender inclusive housing policy, which allows people no matter their gender identification on the school website to room with whoever they want, and an educational partnership with SSU Resident Life (ResLife) concerning fair and equal treatment of the university’s transgender community.
But one of the biggest issues that has been on the forefront of their agenda is the campus’s chosen name policy. Policies like these are becoming more common in universities across the United States, allowing students to select what name and pronouns will live on their official documentation, a move that’s inclusive of transgender and nonbinary students.
“I’m really pushing the administration to make sure that students’ correct names are being reflected, and that students aren’t being outed to other student employees, because that’s been a huge problem the past couple of years,” Glidden explained.
On the verge of graduation, Glidden has been working with the Alliance to create an online database where initiatives like this won’t fall by the wayside with matriculation of key, senior leaders. And Glidden hopes that while they may not be at the helm come fall, the work that they’ve put in over the past few years will continue on.
“I want to make it easy for them to look at the database and say ‘Ok, yeah, this is the first issue we need to tackle and then this one,’” they said. “It will help them stay on track to meet these goals.”
Queer Arts Festival
Even during COVID, SSU Alliance has found creative ways to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ students on campus, but it hasn’t been easy. In years past, some of their signature events have included the Raspberry Swirl Drag Show, Queer Prom, and Queer Arts Festival each Spring.
While none of these events were able to happen in 2020, Glidden and the alliance were determined to have the Queer Arts Festival at least in virtual form earlier this month.
Started in 2018, the Queer Arts Festival is an event where students can submit performance pieces and works of visual art for inclusion in the exhibition, with a chance to win choice prizes like a $25 Clipper (campus cash) card.
“The Queer Arts Festival has always been one of my favorite parts of being in the Alliance, because I think it’s one of the ones that it really, outside of creating a safe space for people to express themselves, celebrates what it means to be queer and what it means to be in the queer community and the different ways that people in the queer community can express themselves through different forms of art,” said Glidden.
Some of the pieces submitted for this year’s festival included spoken word, dance, and experimental video. The Center for Performing Arts at Salem State University provided the platform (Vimeo) for this year’s and design student Caroline Canty created the outlay of the virtual event.
“I’m so happy we were able to create the event, even with the virtual platform,” Glidden said. “I’m also excited because now we have this connection with the Center for Creative Arts and Performance that can continue to be fostered over the past next couple of years.
“Underlying everything we were doing this year with our advocacy was also creating connections with other departments and offices on campus, because if these departments are our allies, why aren’t we utilizing them?”
You can learn more about The Alliance at Salem State University on their website at https://salemstate.presence.io/organization/the-alliance, by following them on Instagram @ssualliance, or checking out their initiatives at https://linktr.ee/ssualliance
Joey Phoenix (they/them) is the Director of Brand Strategy and Innovation at Creative Collective. As the resident storyteller and town crier, they encourage you to send story ideas, inspiration, or pictures of adorable critters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative Collective is celebrating the ways we can get outside this Spring with their #SpringOnTheNorthShore campaign, an initiative created to highlight the best that springtime North of Boston has to offer on the longer, warmer days.
Area businesses can participate in the event by using the hashtag #SpringOnTheNorthShore and tagging @creativecollectivema and @creativenorthshore in posts on social media highlighting ways their businesses are encouraging people to get out and explore the best of the region this Spring.