With Queer Month well underway for Haven, the LGBTQ+ student union on Cornell’s campus, student leaders are hosting themed weeks to build community and curb feelings of loneliness throughout the month of March.
“Queer month provides a space for LGBTQ+ people as students, new and old, to realize that there are two to three events per week for them,” said co-president of Haven, Naiara Bezerra-Gastesi ’21. “That is invaluable considering how lonely some students are feeling.”
Bezerra-Gastesi said this week’s programs have provided safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students who belong to other marginalized communities as well, including spaces for first-generation low-income students, Black students, as well for international and non-binary members of campus.
These discussion groups allow students to meet others with similar experiences and build supportive relationships. By providing a judgement-free zone for students to express their thoughts, Haven coordinators hope to facilitate the community-building process.
According to Elisha Chen ’21, co-president of Haven, the organization is expanding its reach by including groups that do not have specific sub-organizations in the student union. Haven currently has several sub-organizations, including some for students who identify as asexual, Jewish and Asian American, among other intersecting identities. The organization aims to become a more inclusive student union for LGBTQ+ students in other marginalized communities as well, Chen said.
This week’s events also focused on supporting LGBTQ+ students in advocating for queer equity. Haven partnered with Mutual Aid Tompkins to host an event, discussing how to organize the community through mutual aid.
Bezerra-Gastesi added that week three’s theme is “queerness on campus,” with events aimed at providing a queer history of Ithaca, an alumni panel and education on police abolition on campus.
Haven is partnering with the local advocacy group Ithaca Pantheras to educate students about why the organization supports police abolition on Cornell’s campus.
“Haven as an organization believes in police abolition on campus,” Bezerra-Gastesi said. “We hope this event is educational for LGBTQ+ students who are learning more about police abolition and why it might be useful to advocate for other marginalized groups.”
According to Bezerra-Gestesi, Haven is focused on advocacy at the local level, but is providing the skills necessary for political advocacy at larger scales as well.
Week four has a focus on LGBTQ+ history, with specific events on the HIV epidemic, revolutions in Latin America and activism in Korea.
According to Chen, queer history is scarcely taught, yet its influence in the LGBTQ+ community is strong. “It is essential to understand queer ancestry in order to understand our current positioning,” Bezerra-Gastesi said.
These events aim to highlight “how rich queer history is,” Chen said. “Even for a queer person, you don’t really learn a lot about queer history.”
Week five is “found families,” connecting students with people who love, respect and support one another. The purpose of this week is to find others to grow connections with which includes a dating event and an exclusive interview from Indya Moore, a transgender and non-binary actor and model.
This month, Haven hopes to provides spaces to discuss the joys and struggles of being queer at Cornell while providing educational and organizing resources.
”I hope people find a sense of community this month,” Chen said.