The LGBTQ+ Alliance is one of Worcester State’s largest and oldest clubs, and one of the few clubs on campus granted Major Organization status (most clubs are considered ‘interest groups’). The distinction is relevant, as Major Organizations receive more money each year to spend on projects and events.
The club was founded in 1998 and they’re currently one of the most active groups on campus, hosting general meetings every other week and numerous events, both large and small, throughout the year.
The general meetings typically see an attendance of 10-15 students, depending on the time of year, and they provide a low-key environment in which to hang out, chat, and have fun. Sometimes general meetings will also include guest speakers or special activities, such as games or focused discussions in which each attendee will be given a chance to speak. Both the general meetings and the events are open to all.
Other events hosted by the LGBTQ+ Alliance take many forms and may include food, music, games, dance, and more! Last autumn, for instance, the club kicked off the academic year with their icebreaker ‘Meet the Gays’ event in the Student Center’s Blue Lounge. The event included board games and food, and close to 75 or 100 people attended.
Another big event they did last semester was the Chosen Family Dinner, a Thanksgiving-style dinner hosted about a week before Thanksgiving Break. The event was advertised long before that, however, and one could fill out an online form regarding dietary restrictions and preferences, of which they were very accommodating. Some students even brought their parents to the event, and there were about 50 to 75 attendees in total.
This semester, LGBTQ+ recently completed their ‘Theme Week’, which included the ‘Werk Week Mixer’ on Tuesday, a Voguing Workshop on Thursday, and Drag Show on Friday. The Werk Week Mixer was meant to be a formal attire-themed event with food and dance, but unfortunately this one flopped; there was an issue with getting the food, and only 10-15 people attended.
The Voguing Workshop, however, was a huge success. ‘Voguing’ is a dance form which originated in the Black queer community, and the workshop was taught by local professionals. Only eleven of us attended (including the LGBTQ+ e-board), but everyone successfully learned the moves, and we all had a great time! Finally, the Drag Show is an annual event hosted by the LGBTQ+ Alliance, and one of their biggest overall.
Turning our sights ahead, an upcoming event to look forward to will be their day-trip to Boston, on Saturday, April 15th. Participants will be picked up from Worcester State at 10:30 in the morning and dropped off back on campus at 5:00 PM. Tickets are only $5.00.
Come semester’s end, LGBTQ+ will also be hosting a ‘Lavender Graduation’ ceremony specifically for LGBTQ+ students who are graduating this semester. The ceremony will be held on May 10th from 3:00 to 4:00 — a couple days before the graduation ceremony for all students. Rumor has it that even President Maloney will be attending. All students are welcome to attend, regardless of graduation status.
Due to my association with the club, I was able to score an interview with the current president, Eli Nelson, to ask him about the club’s mission, his time with the club, and his experience as president of the club.
The following is the conversation that ensued, which has been edited for reading purposes.
Rem: I know the LGBTQ+ Alliance is one of the oldest clubs on campus. What’s some of the history behind the club?
The club actually has a very rich history. Initially, LGBTQ+ was just called the Gay-Straight Alliance. I’m not sure if it was exclusively for gay men, but even the name, ‘Gay-Straight Alliance’, had left others feeling left out. So, the club has obviously had a lot of positive changes over the past few years and it’s now a more inclusive club for everyone.
Rem: And how long have you been President of the club? Has it just been this academic year? What made you initially decide to run for president?
I’ve just been President this academic year. I first joined the club last year as the Social Media Manager. Back then, I didn’t really know anyone in the LGBTQ+ Alliance. I only really got involved with the club in my Junior year. It was really hard to be involved with anything during COVID.
Then, the rest of the e-board graduated in one year and they really needed someone to be President. I thought it would be fun and thought I had a lot to contribute. It was really important to me to build community, so that was my focus. I think we’ve done a good job at that. I built the entire e-board we have now from the ground-up.
Rem: What has your experience as President been like so far?
It’s been amazing! It’s given me the opportunity to meet lots of amazing people and create special relationships, and to talk to people I never would have had the opportunity to talk to otherwise. It’s been one of the most freeing and exciting parts of my college career. It’s also grown my leadership skills and taught me to do a lot of things that could help me in my future career.
Rem: And what would you say has been the hardest part of being President?
The hardest thing about being President was learning how to work with others whose goals for the club weren’t necessarily the same as mine. I had to reconcile some of the work I wanted to do with what others wanted to see. We can do some advocacy and also some community building; it doesn’t have to be one or the other. But I had to learn when to prioritize one over the other.
Rem: Alright, let’s get into more about the club! What would you say is the mission of LGBTQ+ Alliance? Maybe this is an obvious one, but I want to hear it in your words.
The mission of LGBTQ+ Alliance is to create a safe and inclusive environment; a space where people feel like they can be their genuine and authentic selves. That’s what’s really driven me to be a part of the club. When I came to college, being genuine was important to me. The LGBTQ+ Alliance providing that safe space was important to me. In a sense, it’s been about building a family. I think having our own little family is the overarching goal.
Rem: That’s a good goal! And just how big is the LGBTQ+ Alliance family? I know at the bi-weekly meetings, we get our 15 or so regulars, but how many students are official members?
We usually measure membership by how many people show up to our general meetings, but from an event standpoint, we can have anywhere from ten to sixty, one hundred, or even well over a hundred people show up. If I had to give a number, I’d say we have about 20-25 set members, which is honestly an all-time high for the club.
Rem: Speaking of events, which have been the biggest events in your time with the club? Which ones have been your favorites?
One of the biggest events we do is our drag show. It’s the most expensive event we do on campus, and it’s one of the most exciting ones for me. Other than that, the biggest event we’ve had was the Meet the Gays event back at the start of the academic year. Everyone was excited to be there and to get to know each other. That one has had the biggest impact on me. Our Chosen Family Dinner event was also big and did very well. When we put queer people and food together, it always tends to go well.
Rem: Alright, one more question: As I know you’re graduating this year, what are your hopes for the future of the club?
My hope for the future of the club is just to grow, maintain, and sustain our member base and to keep on track with the mission we’ve created. I want to see the community continue to grow, retention continue to climb, and, of course, more fun events!
Rem: That’s all the questions I have for you today! Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
The biggest thing I’d like to add is that students shouldn’t be afraid to join the club, whether they’re queer or our straight allies. People get nervous about joining a club based around queer identity, but we’re all really kind people. We just want to come together and laugh and have fun and make friends.
Rem: I think that’s a great note to end on. Thank you for your time!
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