By Ally Tobler
University of Maryland students from the LGBTQIA community took to the stage to share their experiences in spoken word form Oct. 12 at Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy’s (MICA) Truth to Power: A Queer Open Mic.
Students expressed their opinions on topics such gender norms in society, self-love, intersectionality and transitioning through monologues, poetry and song.
“This event has happened before, but not like this, and not in this same space, which is really important,” event organizer and senior English education major Sweetboispeaks said, adding that the evening focused on “looking to the marginalized people on the UMD campus.”
“At the end of the day…you’re talking about how you love diversity, but we’re doing the work to call you in and say, ‘use their pronouns’ and ‘honor this narrative,’” Sweetboispeaks said.
Charles Xavier, who works with LGBTQIA youth in Baltimore, came to the event to share his experiences in the form of spoken word poetry. The poems he recited focused on themes including usage of pronouns, patriarchal systems, self-love and sobriety.
“This community is important. It’s important that we’re able to be visible for each other and have spaces where we can be with and support each other as a marginalized community,” senior biology major Savannah Speir said.
Senior psychology major Conor Hyunh said he likes the people he meets in the LGBTQIA community, and that events like these give “a good reason to all come together.”
Some members of the LGBTQIA community on campus have different takes on how the general University of Maryland population treats this particular group.
“I think there’s always room for improvement, but I think in general, it’s a well-respected and well-appreciated community,” sophomore elementary education major Jordan Cummins said.
Others have been disappointed with the way they are treated amongst their peers.
“I haven’t personally been a victim of homophobia, but it’s because my extracurriculars are Pride Alliance and such,” Speir said. “I’m pretty insulated in these spaces.”
“I haven’t experienced anything negative, but I know that things do happen. I’ve heard people throwing slang around and stuff when they shouldn’t be,” sophomore animal science major Lena Bradley said.
It’s important that we respect students of all identities, Sweetboispeaks said.
“You need to be actively including the voice and perspective of black queer students on campus,” Sweetboispeaks said. “Talk to us about what needs to be different…because that’s what’s going to make a difference,”
The Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA) strives to “empower students through education on issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion and their intersections,” according to the office’s website.
“I think for us to be able to have a space here and being very active about who [we] include and put in charge would make this campus a better place,” Sweetboispeaks said. “And it’s not that place right now.”
MICA currently provides a variety of services, programs and events to students, including TOTUS, a program for marginalized identities to express themselves through spoken word and MOSAIC, a weekend retreat focusing on exploring the relationship between diversity and leadership.