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Safe Spaces, Poetry Slams and Speaking Out on Campus

Safe Spaces, Poetry Slams and Speaking Out on Campus

Otterbein strives to create a safe space for students in the LGBTQIA+ community. Often, college is a place where students can learn about themselves and grow as individuals. For some, it’s the first place they can truly express who they are.

At Otterbein, LGBTQIA+ students will find gender-neutral housing and restrooms, supportive faculty and staff, a student-led organization called FreeZone and even a gender-neutral sorority. The Otterbein Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Program and FreeZone work to offer programming and opportunities for students to socialize and communicate about the issues that matter to them.

Last week, Otterbein highlighted the voices and struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community on campus with a week of programming that included poetry, discussion and a social event – the Other Prom.

Headlining the week was nationally-recognized poet Kai Davis, for a Poets and Storytellers event on April 11.

Davis — a spoken word artist and award-winning force on the slam poetry scene —performed on campus at an event that also featured student performers. Davis is a queer woman of color and her work addresses the intersections between gender, sexuality and race. Otterbein student performers took the stage to slam, poeticize and storytell, sharing powerful and profound messages about how we live identity and raising consciousness about complex and compounding forms of stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

On Thursday, April 14, a Speak Out Open Mic event and LGBTQIA+ and Psychological Wellness Discussion gave students two more platforms to share stories and discuss relevant issues.

The Speak Out was a warm, communal open mic where students reflected on silence and voice. They talked about marginalization, empowerment, connection and survival. Later that evening, the Wellness Discussion provided a safe forum for a candid, engaging conversation about LGBTQIA+ identities and psychological health. The group discussed that gender and sexual oppression make LGBTQIA+ people more vulnerable to psychological distress. They also discussed more sensitive language for naming that struggle and learning more about self-care, resources and resilience.

Finally, the week ended with the Other Prom on April 16. The Other Prom is an annual LGBTQIA+ welcoming dance — a fun evening of music, dancing and openness, sponsored by FreeZone. It’s a place to gather with friends, and may be a new opportunity for some individuals who did not feel comfortable attending their high school prom.

As seniors prepare for commencement on May 1, LGBTQIA+ students, friends and families are also planning to attend Otterbein’s Lavender Graduation at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 25, in the Chapel.

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a Lavender Graduation is “an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University.”

Otterbein’s ceremony offers an open environment for friends and family to show their support and celebrate with their loved ones in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Find photo galleries from the following events on the Otterbein Flickr page:

Kai Davis Poets and Storytellers

Speak Out open mic

Other Prom 

Learn more about the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.