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LGBTQ Community Grapples with Inclusivity

As Harvard’s LGBTQ Groups Diversify, Some Are Calling for Greater Collaboration

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UPDATED: November 11, 2014, at 6:45 p.m.

When Brianna J. Suslovic ’16 came to college as a freshman, she joined Queer Students and Allies, which she described as the most “initially accessible umbrella organization” for BGLTQ students at Harvard. But by the end of her sophomore fall, Suslovic had decided to disaffiliate from the group.

Suslovic, who became QSA’s communications and outreach chair in her freshman spring, said that although she enjoyed her time with the organization, one of the primary reasons she withdrew from QSA—an organization founded “to promote community”—was because she did not find it as inclusive as she hoped.

“There were people who didn’t feel comfortable in QSA,” she said. Conversations among group members could be unwelcoming, she added, particularly for newcomers to the queer community who may not know the norms and language prevalent in the group.

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Although other queer community members acknowledge concerns regarding inclusion, they point out that in recent years, new official and unofficial spaces have emerged to meet the needs of a diverse population. While the evolution of these groups has provided students with an unprecedented number of ways to engage with the queer community, this growth also raises questions about the role of institutional support and the importance of collaboration across groups.

INTERSECTIONAL INCLUSIVITY

Differences in students’ identity—from interests, backgrounds, gender, and even perception of their sexuality—have led to tensions in umbrella groups like QSA.

“It does divide the community in a certain way, because obviously if you have a really large group, not everybody is going to like each other [or] be on the same page,” said C.Z., a sophomore in Eliot House and a board member of QSA who was granted anonymity by The Crimson because she has not yet come out at home.

According to C.Z., QSA and other queer organizations have been traditionally white and male-dominated, which has prompted concerns about exclusivity.

To rectify this, she and other students have rejuvenated Girlspot, a QSA subcommittee for queer women which had previously been inactive. Now also a Girlspot representative, C.Z. said she believes such small groups address unmet needs in the community.

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“The creation of a lot of small intimate spaces that are directed to serve specific minority communities is a very valuable tool,” she said.

W. Powell Eddins ’16, who founded the QSA subcommittee Harvard Undergraduate BGLTQ Business Students earlier this year, cited similar reasons.

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