Queer and Trans* Empowerment Month, celebrated each October, honors the triumphs that have been made in the LGBTQ+ movement. This year, Northwestern's theme for the month is Building on Progress, to commemorate recent victories like the Supreme Court decision supporting marriage equality and focus on the work that still needs to be done.
To celebrate, Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) is hosting events that will focus on pride, liberation, diversity, and the wellness of LGBTQ+ communities. Above all, MSA will create more critical conversations about identity on campus during this month.
"It's a month of programming to get everyone in the community talking," said Jordan "JT" Turner, assistant director of MSA. "But it's also just the beginning. We really want students to be more aware of the resources on campus for them and how there's plenty of people they can talk to."
The celebration of Queer and Trans* Empowerment Month also marks the beginning of new and improved goals for MSA. With the restructuring of Campus Inclusion and Community (CIC) and MSA, Turner, who joined Northwestern in July, said collaboration is happening more than ever. "The goal is to make departments more intersectional," they said.
"A lot of the LGBTQ+ programs on campus now really work in a social fashion," they said. "That is great and absolutely essential for an inclusive community, but we also want to create a space for more critical conversations outside of the classroom."
Through partnerships with campus departments, such as Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) and Center for Awareness, Response, and Education (CARE), Turner feels there will be plenty of opportunities to engage with the entire university community, not only LGBTQ+ students.
More than a dozen events are being held this month, including keynote speaker Janet Mock, a transgender rights activist and author of The New York Times bestselling memoir Redefining Realness on October 13. This will be the second visit from a leading transgender rights activist; in April, actress and activist Laverne Cox spoke at Northwestern.
Later on in the month, the spoken word group DarkMatter will also visit for a student workshop on activism and performance show. Other events range from a workshop hosted by CARE on queer relationship norms to Cock, a production by the Jewish Theater Ensemble.
"There's a lot of complexities to identity and understanding that comes from conversations," said Michel Joy, an MSA graduate assistant. "We really want to shed more light on identities that we don't talk about all day and give a better understanding."
National Coming Out Day also lands this month. Although it is normally observed October 11, Northwestern is celebrating is on Monday, October 12. To celebrate, members from Rainbow Alliance, MSA, and other organizations will be at Norris Center with whiteboards for students to come out to as part of their identity – whether it be that they're a latino, vegetarian, active in Greek life, or an introvert.
"It's not necessarily about expecting people to choose this day to come out on, but really being visible and showing our presence," Joy said. "We want people to remember that there's a space for them if they do decide to do so later on and just have everyone see that our community cares."