The Whitworth Gay Straight Association has a mission to facilitate open conversations that surround lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues and provide a fun, safe environment for all Whitworth students to ask questions and make friendships, according to the club’s website. One of the events put on by the club is GSA week, an annual week of events dedicated to conversations about LGBTQ issues.
“It’s for people to start talking about the issues within the LGBTQ community and start talking about the struggles people deal with,” said senior Katherine Bernard, the acting president for GSA this semester.
GSA week is put on by the club every year in conjunction with the Day of Silence, Bernard said. Day of Silence is a national event in which students across the nation take a vow of silence in order to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools, according to the Day of Silence website.
It is common for participants to wear duct tape across their mouths as a signifier for the event. The national Day of Silence is Friday, April 11.
In order to recognize Day of Silence, Whitworth GSA will have a table in the HUB where they will pass out cards saying what Day of Silence is and give out duct tape, said senior Courtney Bagdon, the GSA secretary and treasurer.
Club T-shirts may also be available at this time, she said.
The Day of Silence acts as a precursor for the week even though it is not during GSA week, which is April 14-17. An event will occur every evening.
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On April 14 The Rocky Horror Picture Show will show at 7 p.m. in Robinson Teaching Theatre.
“We usually do movies on Monday for GSA week, but we usually do documentaries, and we wanted to do something fun instead,” Bagdon said.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a rock-musical mixed with themes of old science-fiction and horror films, according to The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The Official Fan Site.
The film grew in popularity as an audience participation movie. Audience members often yell back lines at the screen during the extended pauses between dialogue, dress up in costume, act out the film and throw props at various times during the film.
“We’re definitely going to encourage people to do the dance to The Time Warp,” Bagdon said. “We have the props and we’re going to tell people when to use them. We’ll also have cues for the talk backs.”
Goodie bags of props will be available for $1 at the door. All the proceeds will be given to the Million Meals project, Bagdon said.
“[The movie] works with GSA week, because it deals with transgender and transvestite themes,” Bagdon said.
Coming Out Stories is the event for April 15, at 7 p.m. in the Mind and Hearth.
Members of the LGBTQ community who are students at Whitworth will share stories of how they came out.
“It’s a really cool mix of funny stories and some stories from people that it’s been a big struggle,” Bernard said. “It’s a very personal night, but it also allows people to come and embrace it.”
Sharing is not exclusive to LGBTQ community members, the officers said. Anyone who is willing to share their experiences and opinions with the issues addressed are invited to speak.
“One of the main purposes of [GSA week] is to let the community know there are people who are part of the LGBT community on campus,” said senior Colten Larsen, the media manager for GSA.
The event on April 16 will include a Q-and-A with GSA members during Prime Time in Duvall Hall starting at 8 p.m.
In contrast to the coming out stories, this event is set up for people to ask questions of GSA and LGBTQ members.
GSA members are hoping to put a box out in the HUB where people can anonymously submit questions before the Q-and-A, Bernard said.
“We will read through all of them, and any question that is respectful, we will answer, especially if it is a pressing question,” Bernard said. “It is great for people who have questions they’re afraid to ask.”
The event for April 17 is called Open Conversations: Hope. Patricia Bruininks, psychology department chair, will be leading a discussion on LGBTQ issues for this event.
“I know she [Bruininks] is going to incorporate a message of hope and talk about how times have changed from her time in college,” Larsen said. “She may talk about the human behavior of accepting and how that has changed.”
Bruininks’ lecture will not take up the entire event. After delivering her message, the floor will be open for students to ask questions and discuss the themes she presented. The GSA members intend for this discussion to provide official answers to some pressing questions.
“A big part of our club mission is facilitating conversations on LGBT issues, and this is facilitating those conversations,” Bagdon said.
The discussion will be held in the ASWU chambers, upstairs in the HUB at 7 p.m.
The goal of GSA week is to create a fun atmosphere where people do not have to be scared to address issues and obstacles with the LGBTQ community, Bernard said.
“My word of advice is to give it a chance,” Larsen said. “Even if you go to an event for five minutes, just check it out.”
Students who want to learn more about the GSA club and its mission can attend their weekly meetings at 9 p.m. on Thursdays at the Open Conversations theme house or look up club information at whitworthclubs.com/gsa.
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