Letter from Co-Chair

Firstly, let me take a moment to congratulate the graduating class of 2018. At our annual Pride Awards and Lavender Graduation ceremony this year I was blown away by the number of students in attendance. As we all packed into The Miller-Ward Alumni House the sense of community and acceptance electrified the rooms. Students and alumni mixed and mingled, and occasionally let out cheers of glee as they spotted old friends from across the room. The entire evening remind me of why I got involved with GALA and the Alumni Association at the beginning.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that when you first graduate and start “adulting,” life is hard. You have to fight through endless amounts of traffic daily, begin to pay back student loans, and, of course, all while trying to be social in your non-existent free time. GALA provided me an escape from those struggles. Over my involvement, this organization has expanded and strengthened my social network, introduced me to longtime LGBT activists, and most of all given me a close knit group of friends in an even closer knit community.

It is because of these wonderful experiences with GALA that I write this letter with a heavy heart. Due to an impending relocation related to personal opportunities elsewhere, this is the last month I will be your co-chair. In my place are Maury Weil 68C and Neil Vasudeva 16B. I am confident that these two longtime volunteers will fulfill GALA’s mission of maintaining and expanding a network of alumni in order to organize, serve, and advocate for Emory’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. On a more personal note, I can’t wait to see what work they accomplish!

We do have some openings on our executive board, so I urge anyone interested in getting involved with GALA to reach out to myself, Gloria Grevas of the EAA, or our new co-chairs about how to get involved.

Yours in Pride,






Ryan Rusiecki 13Ox 15C
Co-Chair, GALA: Emory’s LGBT+ Alumni

Letter from Co-Chair – Spring 2016

In addition to sponsoring social events, networking opportunities, and community service projects, GALA has continued to advocate for LGBTQ communities both at Emory and throughout Georgia. Recently, GALA has been working to ensure that the Office of LGBT Life receives adequate staffing, space, and resources as Emory’s Campus Life undergoes a reorganization (you can read more about this reorganization at http://dialogue.emory.edu/CASA2/). Our advocacy efforts included a Declaration of Support for the Office of LGBT Life that was sent to Ajay Nair, Senior Vice President and Dean for Campus Life. We were concerned that Campus Life administrators did not reach out to many stakeholders, including GALA, as they created an initial vision for the new Campus Life structure. We will continue to work with Campus Life administrators to make sure that Emory’s LGBTQ students are supported by an Office of LGBT Life that has dedicated space, sufficient staff, and adequate resources.

We have also been working to increase student participation in GALA activities, thereby creating a smoother transition from Emory student to active GALA alum. In order to increase student involvement, we strive to make GALA events affordable for students. When registering for GALA events, many of our alumni generously donate money to help offset costs for students. These donations are greatly appreciated, and any funds for student participation that remain after an event are saved to reduce student costs at future events.

We have one social event planned for this upcoming July, and we would love to see you there! We are partnering with the Emory Young Alumni group and other affinity groups to visit the High Museum of Art on Friday, July 15, 2016. In addition to visiting the art collections, you can also enjoy a live jazz concert as part of the High Museum’s Friday Jazz series. This event will be free for the first 100 registered attendees, and the registration link will be sent out soon.

We would also love to see you at one of our upcoming Steering Committee meetings. You are welcome to attend these meetings even if you have never participated in GALA before. The meetings take place on the second Tuesday of each month at the Miller Ward Alumni House (a free dinner is served at 6pm and the meetings start at 6:30pm). The next two meetings are on June 14 and July 12.

In pride,

Scot S







Scot Seitz, 09C
Co-Chair, GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni

Letter from the Co-Chair November 2015

I started serving as GALA’s Co-Chair in August of 2015, and I am excited to continue working on behalf of Emory’s LGBTQ community. GALA had a busy fall semester that included the Homecoming Blue Jean Brunch, a volunteer event at Lost-N-Found Youth as part of Emory Cares International Service Day, and the distribution of applications for the 2016-2017 GALA Leadership Award. We also started a conversation with President Wagner to encourage him to publicly oppose Georgia’s proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). These events highlight GALA’s commitments to providing networking opportunities, serving our local community, and advocating on behalf of LGBTQ people at Emory and beyond.

As I start my two-year term as Co-Chair of GALA, it would be helpful to know how GALA can best serve your needs. We created a short survey to gather feedback about our events and initiatives, and you can take the survey by clicking here. We would love to hear your thoughts about previous and future GALA events and advocacy initiatives. Whether you regularly attend GALA activities or haven’t attended one yet, we would still appreciate your input!

You are also welcome to attend any of the upcoming GALA meetings. Our meetings take place at the Miller Ward Alumni House on the second Tuesday of every month, starting with a free dinner at 6pm (the meeting officially starts at 6:30pm). Our next two meetings will be held on December 8 and January 12. You don’t need to RSVP for the meetings. Just come hungry and feel free to share your ideas!

Finally, we would love to see you at our upcoming Holiday Social on Thursday, December 3 from 6:30-8:30pm at The General Muir (Emory Point). You can register for the event by clicking here.


Scot S







Scot Seitz 09C

Alumna Spotlight – Shiju Kadree

Shiju Kadree (03Ox 05C, 09L/PH) is the Chief Advocacy Officer at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City.

Paige Crowl (17C) sits on the Communications Committee of GALA and recently interviewed Shiju for this newsletter.

PC: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Emory?

SK: I grew up between Maryland and Atlanta, graduating from Woodward Academy. I went to Oxford because I wanted the Emory level of education, in a smaller, more intimate school setting (it was a little further from home, ha!). Oxford provided a relaxed setting explore my educational and social service interests. When I transferred to the main campus, it was like having a completely separate college experience, which was wonderful! I dove into different clubs and leadership activities, including student government. One of the most transformative experiences I had was being selected for the inaugural class of the Kenneth Cole Fellowship in Community Building and Social Change. I knew that no matter professional journey I chose, I would be always working to bring my experience and expertise to communities in the greatest need. Most importantly, I learned to ask “What do you need and how I can support and center you?”, rather than the historical “I see you need something, so I am going to give you what I think you need.”

PC: How was your Emory experience from an LGBT+ perspective?

SK: It wasn’t, as I didn’t actively participate in any LGBTQ-specific projects or programs.

PC: What inspired you to pursue law and advocacy?

SK: It has always been in the fiber of my being! Since I was about 3 or 4, I have always been using the gift of gab to support and advocate for myself and those around me.

Through the Kenneth Cole Fellowship, an incredible experience, I confirmed my desire to go to law school, but added the idea of getting a Master’s in Public Health. I wanted to pursue a career in environmental justice, representing communities – often low income, rural, and overwhelmingly people of color – who are forced to bear a disproportionate burden if environmental hazards.

When it came to pursuing a joint law and public health degree, Emory again stood out. I was accepted to the law school and deferred for one year (I applied to Rollins during this year), during which time I participated in the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship. That fellowship balanced direct community service with federal level advocacy, and set me on my current path. I was the first joint JD/MPH student that Rollins had in the Global Environmental Health track. This provided some flexibility for me to determine what courses would be most supportive of my desire to balance legal training with a grounding in the scientific research to prevail in environmental justice work. The irony of the situation is that I graduated from law school during the height of the recession, and the job offer I had was rescinded. I moved to New York, threw my name into many application pots,  and was hired as a public defender with Brooklyn Defender Services. After four years I moved on to serve as a legislative counsel for the New York City Council speaker, and subsequently landed at The NYC LGBT Center, where I am now the Chief Advocacy Officer.

PC: Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do with The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center?

SK: I oversee all of The LGBT Center’s government relations, government fundraising, government grants and advocacy work. As part of that portfolio, I lead a statewide advocacy program for the LGBTQ community, that allows The Center to convene the diverse intersections of our community; create and promote an expansive policy and legislative agenda; provide the community tools to mobilize and become engaged in civic life; and provide strategic support to equip the next generation of activists.

PC: What challenges have you faced about being out in public service since you’ve started your career?

SK: I think the greatest challenges happen no matter where you work – having to come out over and over again, being responsive to assumptions, and bringing queer and transgender-affirming norms into spaces that purport to be progressive, but don’t have the tools. Simple things, like not assuming someone’s identity and asking about pronouns, their significant others or family composition, can go a long way. However, we still operate in a very hetero- and cisnormative society, and real, lasting change takes time.

PC: Is there advice you’d like to share with current Emory students who currently or will identify as LGBT+ on being out in public services?

SK: Remember that we are always on a journey of becoming a better version of ourselves. If we are always on that journey, so is everyone else; so give grace to those who may not have reached a destination of acceptance and affirmation of the nuanced and deep diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. And don’t let their journey ever stop you from loving and celebrating yourself!

GALA Supports Emory’s LGBTQ Student Leaders

An important component of GALA’s mission is to provide educational and professional development opportunities for Emory’s LGBTQ students. One way GALA does this is by granting scholarships, merit awards and stipends possible thanks to the generous contributions from Emory’s LGBTQ and ally alumni, faculty, and staff.

  1. The J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund provides grants supporting leadership opportunities for LGBTQ undergraduate and graduate students.
  2. The Dr. Daniel D. Adame Student Leadership Fund supports two annual grants for LGBTQ and ally undergraduate students pursuing leadership opportunities related to physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual or environmental health in keeping with the values of the fund’s namesake.
  3. The GALA Leadership Fund awards a current or upcoming leader in the undergraduate LGBTQ community a scholarship to help cover educational expenses, rewarding students for their hard work and encouraging them to continue in the future.
  4. The GALA Legacy Fund complements the GALA leadership fund supporting a range of opportunities for the Emory Office of LGBT Life. LGBT visibility and identity affirmation as well as campus-wide education on sexuality and gender are two such priorities.

In 2011, GALA’s endowment monies held by the Office of LGBT Life totaled $80,000. Today, GALA’s four endowments’ monies total $434,463. Funds generated by these endowments have supported Emory’s LGBTQ and ally student leaders in the following ways:

  • Since their inceptions, the GALA Leadership Fund has provided 8 students with tuition scholarships and the Adame and Aycock Funds have granted 78 students merit awards.
  • In the past two years alone, $34,862 has been awarded to graduate and undergraduate students – $15,071 in student scholarships from the GALA Leadership Fund and $19,791 in leadership merit awards from the Adame and Aycock Funds.
  • This year, 10 students attended the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Washington, DC.
  • The funds have enabled Gabby Bailey 19C to attend the 23rd Annual Black Solidarity Conference at Yale University.
  • Sasha Cohen 19N will attend the National Trans Health Conference in Atlanta in November.

Donations to GALA’s four funds have made and will continue to make an impact on the lives of Emory LGBTQ students. We thank all Emory’s LGBTQ and ally alumni, faculty, and staff who have generously contributed. If you’d like to support LGBTQ students, click any of the four fund links above to make a tax-exempt contribution.

2019 Pride Awards

The first Pride Awards celebration was held on March 2, 1993 to commemorate the protest and march on campus that began Emory’s institutional commitment towards access and equity for LGBT people. Since that time, Emory University has become one of the leaders in the country for LGBT access and inclusion. At the Pride Awards, individuals are recognized for the exceptional work they do through our peer-nominated awards that showcase the great work many people do behind the scenes for LGBT equality. Additionally, students are awarded scholarships to acknowledge their work within the community, and graduating seniors and alumni are honored each year in our Lavender Graduation.

GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni welcomes the Class of 2019 to the alumni community.

Alumni and the Class of 2019 are invited to join us for a pre-reception to kick off a celebratory occasion. Pre-reception includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, and beer & wine.

Registration is free for Graduating Students and $25 for Alumni, Faculty, and Staff.

Register at http://engage.emory.edu/19PrideAwards

Out on Campus – Jamie Harrell

Jamie Harrell 16MBA is Business Intelligence & Analytics Lead at Goizueta Business School.

Merissa Cope 17C sits on the Communications Committee of GALA and recently interviewed Jamie for this newsletter.

MC: What was your favorite course you took during your time at Emory?

JH: Strategy – my very first course ever in the MEMBA program. I loved that class as much for the course content as for the professor. As a matter of fact, I think my great experience at Goizueta was largely driven by the amazing faculty and my classmates. Losing Dr. Rich Makadok to his alma mater, Perdue, was exceptionally unfortunate for Goizueta Business School. His approach to strategy was intense yet he made it accessible to all of us. I think if you polled our entire cohort, most of us would say that was our favorite class.

MC: Before you started there, what did you anticipate would be most challenging about your time at Emory, and what actually was? The most rewarding?

JH: Balancing work, family and school was certainly demanding, and I had expected the time commitment to be the most challenging. But I think the hardest period was actually when I was laid off about 6 months into the 2 year program. There’s no displacement quite like being unexpectedly unemployed, and I believe it’s much harder to find a good position when you’re barely surviving on unemployment. It’s very difficult to keep a schedule, and emotionally very hard to keep writing cover letters and submitting your resume into “the void”. The most satisfying part though, was becoming the first openly transgender graduate of the MBA program, and receiving the MBA Core Value Award for Courage. 

MC: You’ve said before that you strongly believe in being visible as a trans woman, so that other trans folk will know that they’re not alone. This often means educating others, or prodding them to take initiative to be more inclusive. How do you combat the burnout that can come from being a knowledge and idea base?

JH: There is no “time off” from being transgender. While some of the best days are those when I actually do forget that I’m trans, I remind myself at times that visibility itself can be a form of activism. So many people still haven’t met a transgender person – that they know of. I don’t make every day or moment about activism, and I don’t want people to think of me as a trans activist, but just being openly transgender and president of the PTA at my daughter’s elementary school, for example, is activism. So I give myself a pass when I don’t have the energy to engage in more active work. And when I do have the energy, I focus it on the business community which is for so many transgender people our “final frontier”. Because 25% of transgender people get fired for coming out at work. 50% have an adverse job outcome, such as getting passed over for a promotion, not getting the high profile project, or getting put in a “time out” position. And more than 90% of us report some form of harassment on the job related to our gender. 

MC: In your speech at the Atlanta Business Chronicle Diversity and Inclusion Awards, you spoke about how people can be doing good, but can still not be doing enough. Can you elaborate on that?

JH: The context of that remark is that we typically see all of the same companies and frequently many of the same people at so many of the Diversity and Inclusion events in Atlanta. And while I think inclusion of transgender people is still a nascent topic within that group, we’re largely speaking to and amongst those who already agree with us. It’s a bubble of sorts. And in that context, we can say we do this because it’s the “right thing to do” and that we’re doing good. But we really need to be out in the general business community away from our safe spaces, talking about Diversity and Inclusion, speaking at conferences that have nothing to do with diversity. That’s where the real work needs to be done. That’s where the business case for diversity and inclusion is important; because to make progress in more conservative industries and companies, they need to understand the benefits before they will be willing to address inclusion as a strategy. 

MC: This question isn’t related to your many awards, excellent business record, or your amazing push for diversity and inclusivity, but I was wondering: if you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would you choose?

JH: Water? It keeps the kids from getting hurt when they jump in. Plus a swimming pool isn’t very fun without it!

Pink Ink and News

GALA wishes to congratulate Danielle Bruce-Steele, Director of the Office of LGBT Life, Belonging and Community Justice, for receiving an Emory University Award of Distinction for 2018. The award has been given to outstanding Emory staff who make meaningful contributions to Emory’s community since 1985.

The award speaks to her accomplishments working to support students as the Director of the Office of LGBT Life, but also to all the additional time Bruce-Steele puts in as a leader and adviser with the Center for Women, Campus Life, and many other diversity-focused campus initiatives. Her dedication to the Emory community is invaluable and we are immensely grateful for her work.

Bruce-Steele was honored along with the eleven other recipients of this year’s award at a dinner with Emory President Claire Sterk in late 2018.

Congratulations Danielle!

GALA ATLANTA – 2018/2019 Leadership and Steering Committee Meetings.

GALA ATLANTA has selected a new slate of officers.  Congratulations to our new leaders!

Neil Vasudeva 16B, Co-chair, Atlanta
Jessica Oliveria 13B, Co-chair, Atlanta
Lilly Correa 73C, Secretary, Atlanta
Maury Weil 68C , Member-at-large, Atlanta
Michael Aycock 66Ox 69C 82G68C , Member-at-large, Atlanta
Paige Crowl 17C Communications Co-Chair
Merissa Cope 17C Communications Co-Chair
Aby Parsons 13G, Scholarship Chair, Atlanta
Matthew Kerrigan 09B, Chair, New York

We invite all interested alumni to join us at our monthly GALA Steering Committee meetings, held the second Tuesday of the month.  Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 11 at 6:00 p.m. at the Miller-Ward Alumni House.  We begin with food and social time, and the official meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Out on Campus – Michael Shutt

Michael Shutt is the Senior Director for Community at Emory University. He previously served as the Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Director of the Office of LGBT Life at Emory, and holds a position as adjunct faculty at the University of Georgia.

Paige Crowl sits on the Communications Committee of GALA and recently interviewed Michael for this newsletter.


PC: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Emory?

MS: I grew up in a tiny town in Indiana and attended Michigan State University for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. While I was there, I came out and became very involved on campus. I also began working in several roles in student affairs working in residence life, conduct, study abroad, and alcohol and other drug education. After graduation, I served as the Pedro Zamora Fellow at AIDS Action in Washington DC. I then moved to Georgia with my husband-to-be and began my professional career in student affairs at the University of Georgia as a health educator. After my arrival on campus, I began getting involved with the queer community at UGA. I worked with students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues. To make a very long story short, this journey led me to be the founding director of the UGA LGBT Resource Center. In my third year in that role, I received a call from a colleague at Emory suggesting that I apply for the position of Director of the Office of LGBT Life. I was hired for the position in 2008.

PC: Tell me about your time leading the Office of LGBT Life. What were your greatest accomplishments during your time leading the Office?

MS: There were so many amazing things that I accomplished with our alumni, students, staff, and faculty. Maybe my greatest accomplishment was bringing people together to do great things. This started with the appointment of an advisory committee that helped develop a new mission and strategic plan for the Office. This work led to greater efforts to support queer students of color and transgender students through programs and policy changes. The policies included trans-inclusive health insurance for staff and students, gender-inclusive housing, and a preferred name policy. Another amazing moment/accomplishment was the Office’s 20th anniversary celebration year. With the support of our fabulous alumni, we pulled off a year of extraordinary programming, fundraising, and celebrations. The year was capped off with the celebration of 20 change agents who changed Emory over the last 20 years at the Pride Awards. There are so many more things I would note, but we would be here all day!

PC: How has your experience been being ‘Out on Campus’ from a staff member’s perspective?

MS: As a person doing queer work on campus, you don’t have a choice to be IN. LOL. I started the “Out on Campus” webpage during the 2009-10 school year. We did it because students in our focus groups said again and again that they did not know out staff and faculty, particularly staff and faculty of color. We therefore decided to change that. I was nervous at first because I didn’t think people would sign up. I decided I would not make the page live until we had 50 people. It only took 2 weeks! I think it is still critical to raise awareness of our community. I love it!

PC: What are the biggest hurdles facing LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff at Emory today? How do you hope to address them?

MS: We are in a very different place than we were 25 years ago. At that time, we were deficit oriented. That is, we had to focus on issues of coming out, losing support (financial support from parents), discrimination and bias, etc. Today, these things are still true for some, especially for individuals with identities (e.g. asexual, demisexual, genderqueer) that get much less visibility in and out of our community. For others, queer students experience life at and beyond Emory with great ease. There is no one queer experience.

Organizationally, there are far fewer barriers related to policies and procedures than in the past. If there are, Emory’s leaders immediately begin work to deal with the challenge. That being said, there can be technical barriers that make changes difficult such as organizational software that manages data for 30,000 employees and 14,000 students.

There continue to be issues that come up in the classroom and around campus related to harassment and bias. For example, individuals continue to be questioned and harassed in bathrooms because of their perceived gender identities.

Finally, there are many issues impacting the community, not because of their queer identities, but because of other challenges that are not often discussed. There are queer students, for example, who are experiencing food insecurity, homelessness, and a variety of mental and physical health concerns. As a community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, we all have to be engaged in finding solutions for these challenges.

PC: Are you involved with LGBTQ organizations outside Emory? If so, could you highlight some?

MS: I am the chair of the board of the Equality Foundation of Georgia (aka Georgia Equality). This is my fourth year on the board and I am grateful for the work of the staff who are making positive changes in the State of Georgia for queer and transgender people as well as those living with HIV. I am also on the National Center for Civil and Human Rights LGBT Institute Advisory Board. Next month the results of our 14 state LGBTQ southern survey will be released. Our work is impacting the state, region, and the nation.

I teach at the University of Georgia, including courses on Multicultural Practices in Students Affairs, LGBT Support Services in Higher Education, and Open Expression. I also serve as a consultant on LGBT issues for other universities, including Princeton, New York University, Spelman College, Agnes Scott College, Kennesaw State University, Wesleyan College, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

My past work includes Co-Chairing the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Co-Chairing the LGBTQ Task Force National Conference on LGBT Equality in Atlanta, and serving on the host committee for the World Professional Association of Transgender Health conference at Emory University.

PC: Is there any advice you have to share with current Emory students, faculty, and/or staff who identify as LGBTQ on being ‘Out on Campus’?

MS: Our work is NOT DONE! Please share your time, talent, and treasure to make sure we have an accessible, inclusive, and equitable community on and off campus. Give to local organizations. I truly believe that so goes Georgia, so goes the rest of the country. This means we start HERE! Finally, get involved in elections and VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Masterpiece Cakeshop: Supreme Court Decision Analysis by Tim Holbrook

On July 6, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission et al., or what became popularly known as the same-sex wedding cake case. What does the Supreme Court’s decision ultimately mean for queer couples who fear discrimination by private businesses? Emory Law Professor Tim Holbrook breaks down the case and the justices’ opinions.


In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Jack Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colorado. The two men were going to be married in Massachusetts, and they were looking for a wedding cake for a reception in Colorado. Mr. Phillips is a devout Christian.

Mr. Phillips turned them down, saying he would not use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage at odds with his religious faith. Mr. Phillips noted that he would “make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same sex weddings.” He later noted that he felt making such a wedding cake “would have been a personal endorsement and participation in the ceremony and relationship,” which was contrary to his beliefs.

Even though same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado, the state did prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). The Act creates an administrative system to resolve claims of discrimination.

Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig said they were humiliated by Mr. Phillips’s refusal to serve them, and they filed a complaint with Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, saying that Mr. Phillips had violated CADA’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Colorado administrative bodies and the Colorado Court of Appeals all sided with Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig, rejecting Mr. Phillip’s arguments that requiring him to make the cake would violate his First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case.

Eventually the case was taken up by the Supreme Court on appeal. The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, sided with Mr. Phillips. The Court declined to address the free speech issue and instead decided the case on religious liberty grounds, based on the particular facts of this case. The Court concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had failed to afford “neutral and respectful” consideration to Mr. Phillip’s claims of religious liberty. For example, one commissioner noted that, “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust….And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.” The Court therefore concluded that this statement, along with others, “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication” of the case.

The Court also compared Mr. Phillip’s treatment with those where bakers declined to make cakes that contained anti-gay messages, and rejected the ability of Colorado to distinguish the cases on the basis of the government’s assessment of offensiveness. The Court explicitly left to future cases the vexing issue of whether religious liberty under the First Amendment can trump a state’s non-discrimination laws. The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.

Although the decision was 7-2, there were a number of concurrences and dissents. Justice Kagan’s concurrence (joined by Justice Breyer) sought to distinguish cases dealing with anti-gay cakes on the grounds that such activity was not covered by CADA because no protected class was implicated. Justice Gorsuch concurred (joined by Justice Alito), arguing that Justice Kagan’s view of the case is inaccurate. In other words, he argued that this case and the anti-gay cake cases are the same. For him, the fact that this case involved a wedding cake was particularly important. Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Gorsuch, stated in his opinion that he would also have decided the case on the basis of the free speech claim. Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor, dissented. She wrote that she would have affirmed the Commission’s conclusions that there was a violation of CADA, and she rejected the argument that the language used by the Commission somehow demonstrated hostility to religious views.

GALA SUMMER SOCIAL , and other fun events!




Join other Emory LGBT Alumni & Students in Atlanta for a summer social on Thursday, 8/30 at Tin Lizzy’s Emory Point.

Celebrate the end of summer at the annual Emory LGBT Alumni Summer Social! Come relax on the outside patio at Tin Lizzy’s for food, fun, and friendship while reconnecting with old friends and making new ones!

Please note these additional events before and after the Summer Social!

• 4:00-5:30 p.m. – Office of LGBT Open House; Alumni Memorial Building, Room 132. Enjoy rainbow cake and other refreshments.
• 6:00-8:00 p.m.- GALA Summer Social, Tin Lizzy’s
• 8:00-10:00 p.m. – Songfest, WoodPEC

Register at:

And Save the Date for these upcoming events:
GALA Blue Jean Brunch – Saturday, October 20 from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.. GALA Emory Cares Project at Lost and Found Youth – Saturday, November 10
More Details Coming Soon!

Alumnus Spotlight – Anson Koch-Rein

Anson Koch-Rein is a 2014 alumnus of Emory’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts with a WGSS certificate and is a current Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at Grinnell College.

Danielle Bruce-Steele is the Director of the Office of LGBT Life and recently interviewed Anson for this newsletter.


DBS: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Emory for your PhD?

AKR: I did my undergraduate degree in Berlin and came to Emory from Germany. I had never been anywhere near Georgia before, but now feel homesick when I hear someone say “y’all.” I applied to Emory because of the ILA and the WGSS certificate program – I thought this would be an ideal interdisciplinary environment for getting the kind of coursework and support that would help me pursue my research questions. When I was flown in for interview weekend, I was completely won over by the faculty members I met and the fellow interviewees that would be in my cohort. So, that visit easily convinced me to come to Emory. Grad school as a process is hard and stressful at times, but that first impression proved ultimately correct: I had a really great intellectual experience overall and met wonderful friends.

DBS: How was your Emory experience from an LGBTQ perspective?

AKR: I did check the Office’s website before applying to Emory just to gauge the LGBT+ climate. I came in at a lucky point in time, I think, in that I got to witness and contribute to some change, especially around the T in the acronym. During my first year in grad school, I heard several people around campus comment that trans presence and gender diversity was “invisible” at Emory. This struck me as a self fulfilling prophecy, so I discussed the issue with Michael Shutt, who encouraged me to start Trans-Forming Emory at the Office. The idea was to take up symbolic space and signal presence as much as to be an actual discussion group, which made it easier to keep going when the beginnings were very small. When I entered, the student health insurance plan did not cover transition-related medical care, but efforts were already under way to change this. So, I got to be one of the people putting a face to the demand and participate in discussions and then enjoy the benefits of a lot of work that had already been done behind the scenes. My sense of belonging at Emory had to do with my academic programs, but was definitely also related to events and opportunities through the Office of LGBT Life. In general, I had a very welcoming experience, but I also knew when and where to seek support and information if things hit a snag. In regard to LGBT+ issues, Emory in general (aside from a few individuals and their trans- or homophobic moments) always struck me as either doing quite well or – where this wasn’t the case – genuinely wanting to improve, even with bureaucratic hurdles. Of course, this was just my particular experience, shaped by being a grad student in specific programs and my own experiences with individual people and institutional encounters at a certain time. Everyone experiences their own microclimates.

DBS: What challenges do you think LGBTQ students faced during your time at Emory, and more specifically, in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences?

AKR: Grad student life is quite different from undergrad life. For instance, there are many social and residential spaces on campus that graduate students rarely if ever occupy. And I can’t think of any non-LGBT+ friendly interactions with a fellow graduate student – ever. But neither situation would be easy to generalize, because one’s individual department, program, or lab might have its own issues, even under the big institutional umbrella of the Laney Graduate School. I had a great experience at Laney in terms of graduate study in Queer/LGBT+ Studies seminars and with the Studies In Sexualities program. There were also mundane or bureaucratic challenges of student life: Like other students, I spent a lot of time jumping through or helping others navigate name-change (how many places and unconnected databases

can one’s name be stored?!?) or insurance hurdles, for example. The first few times that a new or revised policy is used, there are often bumps in the road of implementation… As well as a few microaggressions, there were also pretty direct aggressions, such as frequent instances of getting questioned and harassed in bathrooms, and the hassle of navigating the lack of all-gender restrooms in certain buildings, etc. None of these things were unique to Emory. I still talk about restrooms a lot (*sigh*), as do my students. Of course, restroom access has since become much more intensely politicized as a symbolic fight against trans visibility and existence on the national stage.

DBS: How has your LGBTQ experience at Grinnell compared to that of Emory? Do you see any specific areas as better or worse than Emory?

AKR: It’s hard to draw a real comparison because I am now in a visiting faculty role, which is different from being a student. People express their feelings and opinions differently when they are talking to a faculty member. The institution is also very different, a small liberal arts college without a large university and hospital structure around it. And the geographic difference: While the students are from all over the US and the world, Grinnell is a small town located in rural Iowa. Many of the issues LGBT+ students, staff, and faculty here struggle with have to do with being in a small, rural town and in a small institution. On the one hand, this makes for very close connections and great familiarity and often trust, on the other hand, it limits the opportunities for making connections with queer culture and community outside of campus. It also means that being closeted is harder to maintain. Gossip travels amazingly fast here and you always have to assume that everyone knows everyone else. For those faculty and staff living in town, there is no real possibility to separate work from home life, which can be a particular concern for LGBT+ folks. On the flipside, it is easy to be out and doesn’t require many repeated acts of coming out – word will travel fast for you. In comparison, Emory benefits from its involvement with and access to specialized healthcare. While small town access to trans care has proven less difficult than I had feared, there are general issues of living in an underserved community (specifically around mental health and psychiatric care) that impact LGBT+ students, staff, and faculty among others. Another structural aspect that’s easy to compare between institutions is the presence of an LGBT+ Life Office: Like many other small liberal arts colleges of its size, Grinnell doesn’t have a professionally staffed LGBT+ center. There is a self-governed center and great student affairs support through Intercultural Affairs. Coming from my experiences at Emory, it seems to me that there are meaningful work, symbolic, social, and policy effects of a professionally-staffed space and institutional memory that are hard to accomplish if mainly resting on student efforts, or the shoulders of student affairs professionals with a really broad set of Intercultural Affairs responsibilities. Grinnell is a very LGBT+ friendly campus, but I sometimes worry about who does all this work.

DBS: What do you believe Emory could do to improve the LGBTQ student experience?

AKR: Oh, this is easy to answer — As an alumnus, I really shouldn’t have a word in this. I make my small share of donations so that current students can shape their own experience and the institution with it. Listening to current students is always the best way to improve their experience.

DBS: What challenges have you faced about being out in academia since you’ve started your career?

AKR: There are sometimes awkward moments and microaggressions, of course. But all in all, there have been few challenges, which also means that they tend to feel unexpected and like a stab in the back when they do happen. One of the practical difficulties of there being so few out trans faculty and staff (aside from limited options for comparing experiences), for example, is that one’s responses to campus climate or employee satisfaction surveys etc. are never actually anonymous if one discloses trans identity on the form. And unlike for queer identities, gender is now often routinely included on all sorts of forms… for laudable reasons, but with often unintended effects.

DBS: Is there advice you’d like to share with current Emory students or faculty who identify as LGBTQ on being out in academia?

AKR: Academia is a relatively good place to be out. There is an ever-increasing number of out LGBT+ folks in academia and it seems to be one of the most accepting work environments, as far as I can tell. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, of course. But most higher education institutions have a genuine policy-level commitment and real community support behind their efforts to support LGBT+ equality. As with all moments of coming or being out, individual mileage varies… All I am saying is that even from small-town Iowa, things look relatively friendly.