Today we celebrated history in the making as Leeander Alexander presented his Sociology Thesis and LGBTQ Capstone Research. The focus of his research was looking at Black LGBTQ students across gender identities, specifically at Colgate. He wanted to understand whether African American/Black LGBTQ students at Colgate felt excluded from the LGBTQ community, or any other social community on campus due to their race.
The presentation started with some background as to why it is important to understand the intersectionality of different forms of oppression attributed to social identities. Historically and presently, LGBTQ movements exist within a white racial framework which thus excludes people of color who identify as LGBTQ. Leeander found this exclusivity in a specific group on campus as well. According to the people he interviewed for his research, one common sentiment was that the “Queers for Queers” group felt particularly exclusive due to the fact that the white identity was the dominant paradigm. The Black LGBTQ students felt like the group discussions lacked an intersectional framework which made them feel ignored and uncomfortable.
However, on a more positive note, Leeander found that there are spaces and communities on campus that African American/Black LGBTQ students felt they could freely express themselves and discuss these important intersectional aspects of their lives. The first, and most surprising to Leeander, is the African American/Black community. Historically, there is a huge stigmatization of black homosexuality in the Black community which Leeander connected back to slavery. However, Leeander explained the acceptance of the Black LGBTQ within the African American/Black community at Colgate due to the shared experience of marginalization. It is no secret that Colgate is predominately white, and therefore students of color, whether LBGTQ or not, have a shared identity and understanding of what it feels like to be marginalized. Thus, Black LGBTQ students have found solidarity among other Black students on campus.
Other groups on campus have also provided an inclusive space for African American/Black LGBTQ students. These groups include The Union, Winning Women, Rainbows, The Women’s Studies Center (!), and The Harlem Renaissance Center. What makes these groups and spaces unique is the fact that Black LGBTQ students felt comfortable to express themselves as well as they foster an environment which discussion about LGBTQ issues, race, and other forms of oppression and stigmatization can be facilitated.
Although it is great that there are spaces on campus for discussions about the relationship between LGBTQ identity and race, Leeander ended with the message that there is still more progress to be done. He would love to see a physical LGBTQ resource center on campus that would provide a safe environment to discuss the complexity of LGBTQ identities. He also encouraged future research to assess how social class other forms of social oppression play into the lives of LGBTQ students on campus. Overall it was an insightful and informative presentation.
Great Job, Leeander! We are all so proud of your accomplishments.
-Michelle Van Veen