NU-Alliance leaving its mark on campus
NU-Alliance, Niagara University's newly acquired lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, ally group, has come a long way in being recognized as an actual organization on NU's campus.
Matthew Guiffre, cofounder of NU-Alliance explained, "As an outgoing member of the group and having led the group for the last year, it is my hope that the group will continue to grow and thrive under new leadership."
At the start of the spring semester, five council members were chosen as new leadership for the continuing semesters ahead: Doug Mann (co-head), Maria Held (co-head), Crystal Grabowski (council member), Siobahn Ducey (council member) and Teresa Watson (council member).
"We are raising awareness about the LGBTQ community and helping and supporting change for a more accepting world for members of that community while opening a place for them to come and feel comfortable," Mann said.
As Ducey said, "NU-Alliance is an organization that focuses on acceptance and advocacy. It also focuses on personal bonds and communication that allow for a safe environment."
Grabowski said, "The group has a friendly and accepting atmosphere - people can talk about whatever they want, whatever issues, whatever topics. We're always looking for new ideas, so people with a lot of them can show up and brainstorm with the rest of us."
Maria Held is looking into making a name for NU-Alliance on campus in order to expand visibility and make themselves available to anyone on campus.
Ducey agreed with Held in that NU-Alliance is trying to get more recognition around campus. "What we're really trying to do is get more recognition throughout the university. NU-Alliance has not received a significant amount of publicity," Ducey said..
On March 16, NU-Alliance partnered up with the Poetry Society and presented the second annual Gender Issues Poetry Slam. The turnout was smaller than the previous year, but everyone spoke highly of it after the fact.
Guiffre also mentioned that the poetry slam went well. "I thought having an NU-Alliance leader hosting the event did a great job meshing the two clubs together," he said.
Held hosted the slam and enthralled the audience and performers with LGBT jokes and information. Guiffre said, "(Held) was extremely comical and kept the audience entertained the entire evening."
Held was also blown away by all the poets. "I do wish slams were attended by more people though. The campus is really missing out on some future public speakers, and future famous slammers getting their start," Held said.
NU-Alliance created human-sized figures, one male and one female that were displayed in Gallagher prior to the slam. Stereotypes of each gender were written on them. The figures were then revealed later that night as set pieces for the slam.
On Sunday April 11, Lyndsey D'Arcangelo, author, activist and recently married lesbian, came to NU to talk about her books: Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, "The Trouble With Emily Dickinson" and her more recent novel, "The Crabapple Tree," which was published in May 2009. D'Arcangelo talked about gay rights and life in general with NU-Alliance.
Another event that NU-Alliance is hosting is the showing of "Boys Don't Cry," a movie directed by Kimberly Peirce starring Hilary Swank. The movie, which is based on actual events and covers the life of Brandon Teena, a transgendered teen who lives as a male but is biologically female, will be shown Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in Vini's Room 407.
"It's a great movie, though it can be hard to watch for some," Held said. After the showing there will be a discussion. "The talk afterward will bring out issues of discrimination concerning the LGBT population and public awareness and involvement," Ducey said.
"It's one thing to talk about an issue, but it's completely different to actually see it happening on the screen," Mann said.
NU-Alliance will also be taking part in the Day of Silence, which will take place April 16. According to the Day of Silence Web site, hundreds of thousands of students nationwide will take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.
"We want NU to be a part of it for the first time," Teresa Watson said. "The Day of Silence is our day of making some noise on campus and in the world at large (and) without saying a word," Held said.
"It's all about fostering an acceptance and understanding of people who are LGBT," Grabowski added.
The Day of Silence Web site says that the participants' silence is representative of LGBT voices silenced by fear or discrimination and draws attention to the issues in the community in some of the loudest silence ever witnessed. "I'm excited to bring it here," Watson said.
"If we get the turnout we want, we will have 20-plus people not talking for the whole day. That may not sound like a lot, but we are a small campus and people will notice," Mann explained.
"After a relatively quiet yet productive semester, I look forward to hearing all about the big impact NU-Alliance had on the NU campus in the future," Guiffre mentioned.
"NU-Alliance had enabled me to meet new people and connect with them on a personal level. Knowing that I am not the only member on campus who identifies with the LGBTQ community, it brings a sense of acceptance," Ducey said.
Held added to Ducey's comment and said, "It makes the campus more inviting just knowing that there are people I can go to and have no fear of being who I am."
Brande Lee, a junior at NU said, "This group of people have shown me that it's OK to be a LGBT and there will always be a place for me to go and be myself."
"The NU-Alliance has been an organization I have come to depend on in a lot of ways, as a weekly pick-me-up and also as an outlet for getting LGBTQ voices together and soon heard on this campus. It has honestly made me a more confident, involved and aware individual," Watson pointed out.
"It has really helped restore my faith in this campus. It shows me that there truly are other open- minded people here that not only care about LBGTQ issues but, are open minded to other things as well that I really enjoy," Mann concluded.
Grabowksi mentioned that, during their weekly meetings, events are planned and current LGBT issues are discussed. "We allow for a general discussion that ends up with lengthy visits to great contemporary issues topics. Also, there is a lot of fun conversations at well, and we've all grown to know each other very well," she said.
According to Mann, "Sometimes things do get really heated and political and serious, but we do have a lot of fun. And we are all pretty good friends."
"For any newcomers to the group or any students on campus interested in us I would just like them to know that we are not a gay-only group. We accept anyone on campus who feels alone, scared or discriminated against at any point - and really, who does that not include?" Held explained.
NU-Alliance has meetings every Sunday at 8 p.m., Under the Taps in the Gallagher Center. These meeting provide a safe space for everyone to be themselves no matter which letter they identify with: L, G, T, B, Q, or A. "I want all of the students on campus to know that the Alliance is here for them if or when they need us, regardless of sexuality - we really do welcome everyone." Watson said.