Stanford Ally Week seeks to unite queer community

March 1, 2012, 2:25 a.m.

 Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Nathaniel Williams ’13 as Nathaniel Williamson. It also misstated that the Tuesday discussion hosted by Queer and Asian (Q&A) was about “Queers Read This.”

Stanford Ally Week seeks to unite queer community
Students gathered in El Centro Chicano to listen to a panel of students from Familia, a Stanford Latin queer group, and Safe and Open Spaces at Stanford as part of Ally Week. Other events continue through the week. (ALISA ROYER/The Stanford Daily)

In its first year, Stanford Ally Week, a series of events organized by campus Queer Volunteer Student Organizations (QVSOs) to unite queer communities and raise campus awareness and support, is an effort to bridge divides, according to student group leaders.


“It’s about the cultural centers coming together because we have these very separate meetings and these very separate groups,” said Elizabeth Patino ‘14, “which I think is good. It really works. But we also want to come back together.”


Patino was a key figure in the organization of Stanford Ally Week. She said she had been reflecting since summer to think of ways to integrate allies more into the queer community.


“I wanted to make the ally community visible, so that it’s not just a one community struggle — not only queer people fighting for queer rights,” Patino said.


Organizers of the event had slightly differing definitions of what makes someone an ally to queer rights.


According to Patino, an ally is somebody who “actively supports and helps further the rights of certain kinds of population,” in this case the queer community.


“So if you’re a queer and Asian ally, then you’re going to fight for those rights,” Patino said. “Or if you’re an Asian community ally, you’re going to be in those groups trying to fight for those rights.”


On the other hand, Isabella Arzeno ‘12 offered a more relaxed version of who is an ally. She said being born and raised in Puerto Rico, a country she said is still not very accepting of LGBT people, has given her an appreciation of even the smallest of steps.


“I will consider anyone that embraces my queer identity as an ally, especially if you are willing to go with me to LGBT events because that would be totally unheard of from where I come from,” Arzeno said.


Patino said Stanford’s queer community is one that, in her opinion, has its own “niche.”


“It’s a very tight knit community. We know each other,” she added. “We’re kind of like our own family.”


Monday’s event was a reading and discussion with Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) of “Queers Read This,” an anonymous pamphlet distributed at a New York City pride march in June 1990. Queer and Asian (Q&A) held another discussion Tuesday.


About 19 students gathered in the lounge of El Centro Chicano Wednesday to talk to a panel of students from the Latino queer group, Familia, and the group Safe and Open Spaces at Stanford (SOSAS).


Although distinct communities sponsored the events on Tuesday and Wednesday, on Thursday the groups will come together for a mixer at El Centro Chicano, followed by a gathering on Friday at noon in White Plaza with food and music.


Patino described the unifying events as an attempt to “make a call for everyone to get together.”


“I’m hoping that this week will demonstrate just how much community there is here at Stanford,” wrote Nathaniel Williams ‘13, co-chair of Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), in an email to The Daily. “Being queer, LGBTQ-identified, and allied at Stanford is perhaps the best experience one can have in the U.S.”


Arzeno echoed his thoughts saying, “If there was a place to redefine your identity, Stanford is definitely it.”


“[Stanford Ally Week] is a double learning experience,” she added. “It’s not only allies learning to be involved with the queer community, but the queer community learning to be involved with allies. We’re tackling both homophobia and heterophobia at the same time.”

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