Editor’s note: Some of this submission’s authors have requested their names be altered because they are unable to express their sexuality or gender identity in their personal lives outside the UCLA community. All contributors can be contacted by email at [email protected]
In a campus as large as UCLA’s, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. During zero week, there are hundreds of clubs and welcome events that encourage community-building, but after everyone grabs their free sunglasses and shot glasses, they disappear back into the anonymity of a large state school. As a marginalized group on both campus and in society, LGBTQIA+ students have a tendency to band together, but are still confronted with the problems of organizing in a large institution. LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, asexual and additional oppressed sexual and gender identities. At the start of every quarter, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Resource Center hosts a social known as “Cookies and Queers” that is heavily packed with students seeking friends and community. However, in this exuberant frenzy, some people still manage to feel lonely or isolated.
While LGBTQIA+ students face a lot of the same struggles as their heterosexual counterparts, such as the pressure to get good grades and the problem of balancing academics with extracurriculars, they also face a variety of issues that are not openly discussed on campus.
LGBTQIA+ students are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and homelessness. Nearly half of young transgender people have considered taking their lives, and a quarter reported having made a suicide attempt. Additionally, over 30 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people ages 16-20 have attempted suicide.
Until recently, the University of California made no effort to determine how many UC students identify as LGBTQIA+. At UCLA alone, an estimated 50 to 400 students identify as transgender. While the new UC application asks applicants about their sexuality and gender identity, no one can know how many current students are impacted by the social and environmental stress of being queer in a heteronormative society. There is no way to estimate how many students, open about their identity or not, have considered taking their lives because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Suicidal ideation and other mental health issues are exacerbated by homophobia and transphobia present at UCLA, at home or in the media. The combination of stressors that come with being a college student and belonging to an oppressed group results in lower retention rates. As such, LGBTQIA+ safe spaces have the potential to revolutionize people’s lives. Finding a community of supportive peers oftentimes means the difference between success and failure for queer students.
Queer Alliance at UCLA is comprised of La Familia, a queer Latinx* student group; BlaQue, the Black queer student group; Fluid, a bisexual, pansexual and gender-fluid group; PAQ, a community for pan-Asian and Pacific Islander queer students; TransUP, a group comprised of transgender students; Queer X Girl, a queer womxn group; Project 1, an advocacy group that reaches out to inner-city high school students in Los Angeles; QOM, a new student group for queer South Asian students; and Kabalikat Kore, the gender and sexuality component under Samahang Pilipino.
Since its formation in the summer of 2002, Queer Alliance has been committed to creating an intersectional LGBTQ+ community at UCLA in response to the lack of funding allocated to queer student organizations on campus, as well as to address the lack of non-white student representation and the unique struggles students of different cultural backgrounds face in addressing their sexuality and gender identity. The organization’s leaders pushed and continue to push for a political and progressive social movement to act on behalf of LGBTQ+ students and their often unheard voices.
Leaders over the past year and a half have been developing Queer Academy, a program intended to address concerns such as the LGBTQIA+ community’s proportionally poorer retention rate and mental health by helping incoming queer students navigate their college experience.
Queer Alliance has been expanding to be more inclusive of queer students with multiple identities, some of which the UCLA LGBTQIA+ community previously did not encompass. In the past two years, Kabalikat Kore and QOM have joined the coalition, representing queer Pilipino and South Asian students. Aside from these attempts by Queer Alliance, the organization seeks to create a community by having year-round programming, attending protests on campus and in Los Angeles and also by taking a delegation of students to the annual Queer People of Color Conference, taking the idea of community onto a larger and more intersectional scale.
Queer Alliance will be participating in the upcoming National Coming Out Week, which will be taking place third week of fall quarter. Before National Coming Out Week, all are invited to come meet the LGBTQIA+ community at the LGBT Center’s LBGTQ Fall Resource Fair taking place Friday, Oct. 9.
Corona is a third-year political science student and co-director of Queer Alliance at UCLA. Acas is a fourth-year Asian American studies student and external vice president of Queer Alliance at UCLA. Balter is a second-year sociology student. Platero is a fourth-year political science student. Ma is a second-year cognitive science student.