Josh Feldman stood in front of students in the Charles E. Young Grand Salon in Kerckhoff Hall and shared his journey to self-acceptance, through American Sign Language.
“I’m a writer, I’m gay, I’m Jewish, I’m a Libra, I used to be a vegetarian, but that’s not what’s important right now,” Feldman said.
Feldman, a scriptwriter based in Los Angeles, was the keynote speaker for the fourth annual Queer Undergraduate Research Symposium organized by UCLA QScholars and the LGBTQ studies department on Friday. The day-long symposium, called “Paint Yourself Whole: Navigating Intersectionality in a Divided World” included undergraduate researchers’ work in gender and LGBTQ studies.
Tomarion Brown, the LGBTQ studies program coordinator who helped organize the event, said the day was a chance for students to share their research on any topic related to LGBTQ studies.
“Today is not just for LGBTQ minor students, but all undergrad students,” Brown said. “It’s for anyone brave enough to present … (it is a) great opportunity to talk about current events.”
Pi Wright, a fourth-year English student, shared their research that applied early-20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s studies to both the history and continued prevalence of cisnormativity, they said. Cisnormativity is the assumption that everyone is born with the gender that they identify with.
“I think queer studies is about unpacking normative, patriarchal ideals,” Wright said.
Emily Padilla, a third-year gender studies student, also presented in the symposium and shared their research on nonbinary gender identities and its celebration in indigenous tribes. Padilla explored various mestizo tribes’ cultures in which co-gender members of the community are celebrated.
Timna Naim, a fourth-year dance student performed an interpretive dance using masks that explored queer identity. Naim used each mask as a different facet of their identity and expressed the amalgamation of these into one person.
The day’s presentations culminated with Feldman’s keynote speech, in which he recounted his own experiences in college and early adulthood as a deaf and gay man. He said his multiple identities in different minority groups initially left him frustrated and confused about who he was as a person and what kind of life he could lead.
Feldman said it was only after he moved to Los Angeles after college and some years in New York that he started to live as an openly gay man.
“Good things happen if we begin to accept all aspects of who we are,” Feldman said. “Get to know these parts and assemble these parts as one whole.”
Feldman added he agreed to speak to college students about his own experiences because he wanted to be the person that he wished he knew in college. He also emphasized the importance of community and the importance of intersectionality, which is the concept that a person can have multiple identities that overlap and experience different forms of discrimination.
“LGBTQ (members) know being able to choose our own family is the highlight of this journey that we’re on,” Feldman said.
Karen L.A., a third-year sociology and Chicana/o studies student, said she agreed with Feldman’s sentiments. She said she came to the symposium because she wanted to be more involved in the LGBTQ community.
“I identify as queer, and wanted to hear stories I could identify with and the research that relates to my community,” L.A. added.
Brown said the LGBTQ studies department will continue to organize events that facilitate discussion about queer research and identity, and welcomes students from all over campus to contribute their thoughts and experiences.
“We as a department want to grow as the LGBTQ community keeps growing,” Brown said. “We want to grow alongside it.”