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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

LGBTQ+ Western events provide support for students

Campus organization brings their events to students online

LGBTQ+ Western is holding virtual workshops featuring topics such as mindfulness and yoga. // Photo courtesy of LGBTQ+ Western

By Ashtyn Gudgel

With a closed campus during spring quarter, Western’s student organizations have adapted to bringing their events online. LGBTQ+ Western is no exception, and has been holding weekly events via Zoom since spring quarter began.

“Decisions for what events we were putting on were made once we knew we were going digital,” said L.K. Langley, the director of LGBTQ+ Western. “We’ve planned three weekly virtual gatherings to foster the connection between queer folkx [sic]at Western.”

Each gathering takes place over Zoom, and focuses on different aspects of holistic wellness for queer students, according to Langley. On Mondays, counseling center therapist and yoga instructor Kelsey Johnson hosts Queer Yoga.

“Queer Yoga focuses on student’s physical wellness,” Langley said. “For queer people, it’s common to feel a disconnect from their own body, and Queer Yoga is a way to create a connection and stay grounded.”

On Wednesdays, staff psychologist Christopher Edwards hosts a Mindful Self-Compassion Workshop. Edwards, who created this workshop out of an intensive training he attended last year, led by Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer, used the workshop to promote mindfulness for the students who attend. 

“The series is intended to be as engaging as possible with space to share, connect, and practice in-community,” Edwards said. “We open each week with a check-in, talk about how we practiced self-compassion or specific exercises related to mindfulness, and then take time to walk through simple exercises or listen to a guided meditation.”

Edwards also stressed the importance of the workshop right now. “This quarter has been challenging in so many ways and the more I read about the impact of COVID-19 on well-being, the more I wanted to offer a space for people to come together and consider tools that might provide some relief,” he said.

On Thursdays, a guest faculty member hosts a Queer Arts & Culture Conversation, discussing aspects of a specific part of queer culture, including queer representation in comics and art created during the AIDS epidemic. “These conversations were created for students to connect with other queer communities,” Langley said.

For legacy events hosted by LGBTQ+ Western at the end of the quarter, like Pride and Lavender Graduation, decisions are still being made. “We’re trying to figure out how to transfer these events to a digital setting,” Langley said.

For many queer students, it’s important to continue to interact with other students and faculty that will support them, especially in times where they may be in an environment that may not be supportive.

“In many conversations I’ve had with colleagues, friends and other mental health providers a consistent theme has been concern for queer individuals during these uncertain times,” Edwards said.

“The added strain of social isolation, lack of support, being in environments that may feel unsafe and having to navigate already complex systems makes it that much more important to be there for our fellow LGBTQ+ family,” he said.

Makayla Haverluk, co-president of the Western student organization Out in Science, which is a group dedicated to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ members of the science community, also stressed the importance of support for queer students. 

“Many of us were forced to move back to an unsafe situation with a family that doesn’t accept their identities,” Haverluk said. “LGBTQ+ students need support and validation from peers, so online activities, group chats and just social media in general can be very reassuring for some people because they are using an outlet in which they can be themselves.”

LGBTQ+ Western’s virtual gatherings have provided a place for queer students to be themselves, and Langley reminds us that this time is not the only time to support queer students.

“It’s always important to support queer students, but especially now,” Langley said. “We live in a society that still sends messages that who we are is not okay. Through these workshops and virtual gatherings, we’re in a place where we are supported.”

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