Questions & answers with the president of Queers & Allies

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Story by Ben Edwards, for The Muleskinner
Queers and Allies is a group for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual and intersex community and its straight allies. They work through programming and education to bring advocacy and education to the UCM campus. The group also understands social needs of students and hosts social programming and educational programming at meetings.
Q&A President Matthew Hutchinson sat down with Ben Edwards for a question and answer session to de-mystify the student group.
Ben: First of all, I would like to ask, what is the purpose of your group?
Matthew: We are here to promote advocacy for LGBT people, education for straight allies, and a social environment for LGBTs.
Ben: How long has this group been around on UCM campus?
Matthew: That’s a more difficult question to answer.  When we first started we weren’t officially recognized on campus and throughout our history we were called many different names.  We used to be called Alternative Lifestyles on Campus and only in the year 2000 were we officially recognized by the Student Ledger.
Ben: I have heard there are heterosexuals in Queers and Allies.  What percentage of the group roughly would you say is non-LGBT?
Matthew: I don’t think I could answer that question.  Q&A does not ask people about their sexual orientation.  We do have straight allies, but we have many different branches on college campuses throughout the country, but I don’t know what percentage of our group is heterosexual.
Ben: How does Queers and Allies raise funds for its activities?
Matthew: Our social representative owns her own business and makes buttons, mugs and other paraphernalia with LGBT themes and we also have bake-sales to raise money for Q&A.
Ben: What prompts people to join this organization?
Matthew: It varies.  For some it’s because they have nowhere else to turn.  For others it’s because they want to learn how to serve the LGBT community.  For me it was a little bit of both, so it varies from person to person.
Ben: What does Queers and Allies do around campus to help the people it represents?
Matthew: We do advocacy.  We have panels in different sociology classes; we have National Coming Out Day where we hold panels to answer questions about coming out; we also have National Day of Silence which is a silent protest for the LGBT community.  We recently protested Southern Missouri State University on their non-discrimination clause, which did not include sexual orientation and gender expression.
Ben: What do you feel Queers and Allies has done in terms of accomplishing its goals?
Matthew: I think we have done great so far.  People nowadays are very supportive.  We still have a lot to do and we want to change UCM’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender expression and President Ambrose has been very helpful with that.
Ben: What reaction do people usually get when people find out they are a member of Queers and Allies?  Why?
Matthew: Again, it varies.  Some people get positive reactions but a few do get negative ones.  I myself have gotten mostly positive reactions, but again it varies.
Ben: How are things better these days for Queers and Allies?  How are they worse?
Matthew: How are things better?  Well these days people are a lot more supportive and a lot more aware.  How are they worse?  That’s a hard question to answer.  I don’t see them as being worse in any way so far.
Ben: Does it feel different to go to UCM for someone who is a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individual after being a member of Queers and Allies?  Why is that?
Matthew: Again that also varies.  Some feel more accepted after they join, but then again, it varies.
Ben: What are some of the biggest challenges Queers and Allies faces today?
Matthew: Well, things are a lot better for Q&A these days, but we still do have problems such as harassment on campus.
Ben: What will this group do in the future in order to achieve its goals?
Matthew: We are looking to get more involved on campus and the first step is communication.  We’ve recently been asked by the UCM organization Sisters of Ujima to help them with a diversity event.  We also hope to reach out and connect with other groups on campus.
Ben: What would be the most important thing for people to know about your group?  Why?
Matthew:  I would say that we don’t ask people who join what their sexual orientation is.  Some people are still deep in the closet and we want people to be able to experience the LGBT community without having to come out.  We are also a very strong support system and we are a very social group around campus.
Those with questions for Matthew may contact him at (618)530-5550 or at [email protected].  Queers & Allies currently meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Union.