For all students (past and present) as well as folks who “happen by” the blog…
I’d like to take a moment to tell you about the IDENTITY PROJECT on display at OSU this month. Better, yet, I’ll let Angie Wellman tell you about that AND MORE (below).
Students in my HDFS 5440 course this semester may use this as an extra credit opportunity but must visit the exhibit and plan on doing so in a thoughtful and UNrushed manner.
Welcome to cooler air, beautiful leaves, and time to gather with family and friends! As we begin October, and our celebration of LGBTQ History Month, the Ohio State campus community is coming together for a myriad of programs and events framed around the theme of “Telling Our Stories.”
For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (and those whose sexual or gender identity falls somewhere else along the spectrum), openness and authenticity has been an especially powerful tool in telling our stories — both to others in the LGBTQ community and to allied audiences.
The programs and events planned for LGBTQ History Month, as well as the upcoming Transgender Celebration Week in November, are framed to move us, to make us think, to make us remember, to make us reconsider our assumptions, to change our minds, to introduce us to people and places and communities we want to learn more about.
Probably the most visual component of this is the “Identity Project” display in the Great Hall of the Ohio Union. It is a photography exhibit wherein those who were photographed were empowered to choose the words that they wanted to represent them. The photographer, Sarah Deragon, describes it in this way:
“The Identity Project resonates with people because the photo project pushes up against the preconceived notions of what it is to be LGBTQ in today’s society. Not only are the portraits striking, the participants in the project are playing with language, making up entirely new terms (transgenderqueer or inbetweener) and showing pride in their complex and ever changing identities.”
For more insight to the thoughts of those photographed, check out this link to their testimonials.
Already, the art installation has sparked discussion.
“What does this have to do with LGBT History Month?” Why didn’t we display pictures of cute couples and LGBT parents?” “Aren’t some of these labels sexualized? Doesn’t this reinforce the slurs that people use against us?”
My answer is as simple as it is complicated. So often we talk about how to get beyond the limiting, even destructive, identities we create for ourselves, or have been imposed on us in our lives. Historically, folks in the LGBTQ community have been labeled, and those labels have resulted in familial, political, economic, and social oppression.
Why this photo exhibit? What power in self-identifying! What freedom in sharing our identities with the words that we, alone, choose! What does it mean for us as a community to make visible, to give voice, to those segments of our community who are so often erased from our collective narrative when their stories, identities or lives are not “mainstream” or “assimilated” to society’s accepted norms? What does it mean to bring visibility to our community’s most invisible, marginalized members?
To reflect on the words that folks have chosen and feel empowered by…and then reflect on what those words illicit in us.
This year, many in the LGBTQ and allied community celebrated marriage equality. In fact, we are fortunate to be hosting the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Jim Obergefell, as our National Coming Out Day Keynote. This has, indeed, been an exceptionally historic year.
And as we celebrate, we cannot stop working. I said it in June, and am saying it again now. This struggle is about more than marriage equality. This work that we do together to create change is about all of us. Our community includes a vibrant, wide spectrum of people, who have very different lived experiences and ways of moving through the world. AND-each and every person is valuable, and deserves to be able to live open, fulfilling, authentic lives.
At OSU, the photo exhibit, the programs, and the discussions that are offered as a part of this celebration of community create space for each of us to reflect on our movement: Our past, our present, and our future. Through all of these shared mediums, we create space to ensure that each part of our campus community is valued, respected and included.
Important questions and dialogues this history month:
What are you doing to create space? What are you doing to bring visibility to marginalized identities? What are you doing to create change?
Equally as important: what are you doing to live authentically, happily, and whole in all of your many identities?
Stop by the MCC, I would welcome the opportunity to chat with you about all of these things!
In Community & Solidarity,
Student Life Multicultural Center