News Editor, The Pendulum
Just a few months into her new position as inaugural coordinator of the LGBTQ Office at Elon University, Kirstin Ringelberg, associate professor of art history, has already received hundreds of emails from students, faculty and staff.
“Clearly there is a need for this position and this office from the amount of people who send me emails,” she said. “Some are just writing to let me know about their support of the community and the office, some are offering tangible support. Like, ‘This is the kind of research I do, let me know if you need help with something.’ Some are asking questions. Probably the majority are asking questions about LGBTQ things on campus and what’s happening.”
Several students attempted to start a queer-minded journal earlier this semester, called Outwrite, for students to submit artwork, poetry, coming out narratives and other stories relevant to the LGBTQ community.
The group functioned autonomously even though Spectrum acted as its parent organization, which led to some difficulties with getting advertising approved, according to senior Maggie Castor, one of the original initiators of Outwrite. Although fliers were eventually approved, the group found they were often taken down, which is likely a large part of the reason Outwrite received two outside submissions and was unable to earn enough support to publish this semester.
“We were thinking people were interested and didn’t want to stand in front of Moseley reading the queer poster and so may have took it and read it at home,” she said. “Or, we think people may have torn them down because it was the queer poster. But we really have no evidence either way as to why they were torn down, but it really made getting the word out very difficult.”
Ross Wade, assistant director of Career Services for the School of Communications, who is part of Ringelberg’s Queer Task Force, has started a blog called QueErLON to serve as a place for students, faculty and staff to post their coming out stories, relevant research and other information pertinent to the LGBTQ community. Wade published the first post Oct. 27, titled “Middle School Sucks,” about his struggles with being gay in middle school.
“It’s so overwhelming to think about everything that needs to be done,” he said. “I guess my overall goal is just this blog for right now, that’s all I can contribute. I want to get these stories out and I want to get a dialogue going on how we can improve. Raising awareness and getting those conversations started is a goal.”
Castor said she is disappointed Outwrite did not take off this semester, and as many of its founding members are currently seniors, they have little time in their schedules to start from scratch in the spring. But QueErLON may serve many of the same purposes,
“I think it will get a queer or LGBTQ voice at Elon,” she said. “It will establish it, make its presence not an event, but something that’s more everyday, all the time life, which I think is really important.”
Ringelberg is holding an open house for the LGBTQ Office from 2-4 p.m. Nov. 11 in Moseley 215. Students, faculty and staff can come and go at their convenience and one of her primary goals is to create more visibility for the LGBTQ community.
“Students also have asked for greater visibility from queer faculty and staff and so this event also provides an opportunity for queer faculty and staff who might not have much interaction with queer students to come say hi, get to know each other and students can have a sense of the number and the supportive nature of queer faculty and staff,” she said.
The LGBTQ Office still does not have a physical space, and Ringelberg has been operating out of her own faculty office in ArtsWest.Eventually,acenter will be established where there will be resources for students, as well as a central gathering space that can be used for campus events or just hanging out. Ringelberg has been the primary face of the office amid her other duties as a full-time faculty member and co-adviser of Spectrum.
“We’ve got an LGBTQ office right now, but there’s no space,” Wade said. “We’ve got a faculty person who’s leading it, but she’s not getting a course release and it’s a lot to do without support. She’s got people helping her, but we’ve all got full-time jobs.”
Castor said she believes most non-LGBTQ students still do not know the office exists. But, it is making changes in small ways, according to Wade, and Ringelberg said she will continue to push for change.
“It’s having little ripples on campus,” Wade said. “I don’t think they’re as big and huge as we want them to be in the future, but I think it’s a start right now. And that’s important.”