What interested you in coming back to CC to work after you graduated?
This position was brand new, so I was really excited. When I was a student I advocated for an LGBT full time staff position. It was my dream job to come back, [having been] gone for over a year, and work on things with more resources and more structure to do the things, especially after a year of reflection, that I think was most important and what was missing for queer life when I was a student. I wanted to make the queer life experience better for students now than it was for me… not that it was bad, but I think there were some challenges definitely.
How has CC changed since you graduated?
Andrew Wallace ’12, with [Professor of History] Tip Ragan, started the Oral History Project that captures the oral histories of CC faculty, staff, alumni, students and people associated in the community with the college – LGBT-identified folks but also people who had things to do with the LGBT community. My position was created; an LGBT specific internship was created; we now “gap up” for LGBT faculty and staff; we have a president who has publically said many times that she supports LGBT issues; QueerCC has happened and has been nominated for the LGBT Education Champion Award; we got a cultural attractions fund to bring Dan Savage; we now have an LGBTQ affinity group for alumni, faculty, and staff; the LGBTQ homecoming dinner is now hosted on campus so it’s institutionalized in that way; we’re looking into gender inclusive housing and bathrooms on campus; we are now part of Out for Work in the career center; and CC had a booth at Colorado Springs PrideFest. It’s completely different from when I was here.
What’s the best block you took here?
My first class with professor Eileen Bresnahan, who is no longer here, but she’s such a gem. In our upper-level Feminist and Gender studies theory class I think I was born as a feminist at CC. I came into my own. Eileen was a second-wave, amazing, raging feminist, and when you first stepped into her classes you were like “Oh God, I’m so scared,” but over time taking classes with her, by the time we got to the theory class I felt she had equipped me with the ability to debate her in a meaningful way, and I think that is brilliant teaching.
How do you feel about the petition to keep you from moving back to the Butler Center?
I was taken aback. I was surprised. On one hand I was really thrilled that students organized in a grassroots way, and I’m always saying “What do you have to rally for at CC, what’s making you upset? Be activists!” You have a lot of power as students, so in that way it was really touching to see students being so engaged and so passionate about something. On the other hand, I think it’s difficult to be at the center of something that you didn’t necessarily know about, that could have an impact on your work relationships as a full-time staff person, and that office space is super important, but I really think it the message was much larger. It was about visibility. It was about queer life, space and how these things translate into priorities and visibility and all the things tied up in that. I think that message was promoted, but I think that by putting me in the center the larger, more important message was lost. It’s not about me, it’s about queer life and how LGBTQ issues should be in the DNA of the campus.
Where are the best spots in Colorado Springs for LGBTQ students to hang out?
Inside Out Youth is a great place. The people who volunteer and work there are hip and in tune, and they have a pulse on what’s going on. I think Tony’s seems to be the unofficial queer bar. Some of the folks who used to go to the Bijou bar, which was the lesbian bar, now go to Tony’s, so I’ve heard that’s a place. The Underground downtown is sort of like a staple of gay life in Colorado Springs. Otherwise I think if you hang out downtown, Manitou, and Old Colorado City you see people who are queer-ish and who seem a little more open.
How can straight-identifying people be good allies to the LGBTQ community at CC?
I think the sometimes people say, “CC is so open, we love gay people,” which is fine, but they aren’t assuming homophobia and heterosexism are everywhere. They’re in a position of privilege where they don’t have to see it. I think to be a good ally you have to question your own privilege and your own power, which is a lot of hard work and tough self-reflection . . . not to feel guilty about it, but to leverage that privilege and power for the benefit of others. You can also ask your queer friends what you should be doing. It’s really important to lead as a follower.
You are the advisor for the Glass House. Why should people apply to live there? (Applications due April 12.)
I think the Glass House is a wonderful place to live. It has a great history of community engagement. It was started through grassroots efforts; students wanted to start it back in 1995, and it was called the Glass House because they felt like they were living in a fishbowl being watched to see how all these cultures and people could live together in the same place and whether or not it will work. In some ways that seems like a silly question now. I think the fact that it came from student-led grassroots efforts shows how important to the community it is and how much it’s part of the student life and climate at CC.
Why doesn’t Colorado College have gender-inclusive housing?
CC has, from what I understand, a loose policy around gender-inclusive housing. If there are six or more people and/or on a case-by-case basis, residential life will find accommodations for students. I think we don’t have a more comprehensive policy at the time because there hasn’t been a big push for it. There hasn’t been urgency or immediacy for it, so I think that’s why it hasn’t happened. We don’t have a lot of students asking for it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not something we should work on because of our institutional core values and our anti-discrimination policy and things like that.
What do you think about the idea that some people have that “gay is the new black?”
I think “gay is the new black” as an idea has in some ways good intentions, but it ends up playing oppression Olympics, where people say, “This is the civil rights movement now, you had yours!” I think that’s one of the problems with looking at things as sort of compartmentalized. “Here are race and ethnic issues, here are gay issues, here are women’s issue.” Ability, class, age, all of these differences and all of these systems of privilege and oppression . . . we need to be looking at them as overlapping. I think there are really important differences between race and ethnicity and LGBTQ issues, so I don’t think it’s good to just interchange things. There are differences. One is a visible diversity often, though not always, and one is often not a visible diversity, though sometimes it is, especially around gender. How they’re read in society is different, the time we’re in is very different.
How excited are you for Gaypril?
I’m very excited! I know students are working on a variety of things, and I think that’s great. I’m trying to put together an LGBTQ alumni panel at the end of April to get some alumni back to campus talking to students on campus and what they’re doing now. I think they’re doing the Drag Performance again in Armstrong this year. It’s student-run and has a fun name.
Compiled by Brooks Fleet