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

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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.

Best,

Scot S

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scot Seitz 09C
Co-Chair

GALA Advocacy Spring 2018

GALA had an interest in two Georgia General Assembly Senate bills, neither of which passed the House, which is required for a bill to become a law. SB 373 The Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crime Act proposed extending crime penalties based on the victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Georgia is an outlier among the states for not having such a provision. The bill was first introduced with a different purpose but was replaced with the Hate Crimes substitute in a House Judiciary Committee after it passed the Senate and came over to the House. The bill received no further action in the House. 

The second bill created permissions and protections for child-placing agencies which discriminate against LGBT+ people wanting to adopt children or be foster parents. Discrimination would be justified by “sincerely held religious beliefs”. GALA wrote a letter asking Governor Deal to veto the bill based on the 1st and 14th amendments, the weakness of the religious beliefs argument, potential financial harm to Georgia and Georgia’s citizens, and basic justice and fairness withheld from a single minority group. It is not constitutional to wall off a disfavored, disenfranchised minority and deny them equal protection of the law without a compelling scientifically provable reason. There is not a preponderance of evidence that LGBT+ parents are significantly inferior parents. Additionally, a statue should not deny aggrieved parties the right to redress their grievance with due process as specified in the 5th and 14th amendments.

 The purpose of law is to dispense justice. Inclusion, love and family are central to identity and happiness, and should not be denied to any person or group without justification that passes a high bar. The General Assembly operates on a biennium calendar, meaning Representatives and Senators are elected every two years. Bills not passed the first year are carried over to the second year, but all bills not passed at the end of the second year can no longer be acted upon unless reintroduced in the next elected General Assembly. As “religious freedom” is a high priority for conservatives and discriminating against LGBT+ people seems to be touted as fundamental to “religious freedom,” it is likely a similar bill will be introduced next year.

Submitted by Maury Weil 68C

Emory GALA marches in Pride Parade in October 2017.

 

GALA Social Events

As the school year winds to a close, GALA remembers the wonderful events we celebrated in the past few months. These events celebrated the achievements that not only we as a community have made together, but also those made by individual students, staff members, and alumni alike as they work to better their communities and those around them.

On February 28th, the Emory LGBTQ community gathered at the Miller-Ward Alumni House for the annual Pride Awards. A networking event for graduating students was held prior to the event. There, GALA co-chair Ryan Rusiecki gave a toast to congratulate the students and to welcome them into the alumni community of Emory University. The celebration was well attended by students, staff, and alumni. Notable among them was Emory’s 20th President Claire Sterk, who gave the opening statement at the Awards. As the celebration proceeded, the community recognized the many achievements of the past year. The awards portion of the event culminated in the recognition of graduating LGBTQ students from all schools within Emory in the form of rainbow cords and lavender diplomas. These served to recognize them not only as graduates, but also new members of Emory’s ever-expanding LGBTQ alumni family. The event concluded with ample amounts of dessert and more than an hour of friendly mingling.

On March 29th, we celebrated the kickoff of a brand new initiative coming from the Law School: Emory’s LGBTQ Legal Services! Nicknamed ELLS for short, this brilliant organization works to provide pro bono legal aid to Atlanta’s LGBTQ community. To kick-off ELLS, more than 50 students, staff, and other supporters of this initiative took to Professor Mary L. Dudziak’s house in Morningside. Highlights of the evening include toasts made by program heads Danielle Bruce-Steele and Mary Dudziak, as well as speeches given by ELLS founders, Nicole Schladt 18L and Faris Mohammed 18L. The crowd stayed well into the evening enjoying heavy hors d’ouvres, adult beverages, and, of course, some rainbow cake.  (Read more about this organization and the work they are doing here, https://bit.ly/2I6dgxZ.)

Coming up next is our summer social in late August. Each year it is a fun and informal event when members of the LGBTQ community can get together to bond and enjoy the end of the summer. Keep an eye out for more information to come, and we’ll see you there!

Pride Awards given to deserving individuals on February 28, 2018.

 

Office of LGBT Life Update

The Office of LGBT Life is basking in the quiet of finals time here at Emory. With the Spring semester closing and the ’17-’18 academic year in the rearview, we are inhaling and preparing for the deep breath of reflection afforded to us in the (relatively) calm summer. As we reflect, we are reminded of the busy spring 2018 full of programs and events.

In February, the office staff – along with the Center for Women (CWE) and the Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE) staffs – hosted International Coffee Hour, connecting with dozens of international students. Just a few weeks later, we hosted the Annual Pride Awards, celebrating the accomplishments of graduating LGBTQ students and active community members. Complete with remarks from Emory University’s President Claire Sterk, the Pride Awards was a huge success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in March, the office supported OUTLaw, the LGBTQ affinity group in the Emory Law School, at their Out in Law networking event – connecting students to LGBT attorneys and alumni. Danielle Bruce-Steele, our director and that of ELLS (Emory LGBTQ Legal Services), shared remarks at the ELLS Launch Party at the end of March. A partnership with Emory Campus Life and the Emory Law School, ELLS will offer pro-bono legal assistance to LGBTQ folks in the Atlanta area! Learn more about ELLS here.

Like it is for many others in student affairs, April was a whirlwind of a month. The office, CWE, and RACE hosted a Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC) Brunch, fostering a sense of community and identifying the needs of QTPOC folks at Emory. To close out this year’s Queer Discussion Group (QDG) experience, we held an end of year gathering a few weeks later, inviting all members and facilitators of the 10 QDGs to enjoy food and fellowship.

Culminating a semester of curation, collaboration, and persistence, we celebrated the opening of Stepping Out of Line: Exploring LGBTQ Activism at Emory. This exhibit was co-curated by our student staff member, Jackie Veliz 18C, and other members of the Rose Library. We hosted an end of the year reception and guided curator tour complete with alumni, staff, and students.

 

 

 

 

 

To close out April, winners of the Dr. Daniel D. Adame Leadership Fund – Jackie Veliz 18C and KJ Lewis 19T – grabbed lunch with Dr. Adame and our coordinator, Natalie Turrin. With support from the fund, award winners traveled to Mexico to engage in research and to Maine to attend a conference on podcast production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Office of LGBT Life is thrilled about this year’s commencement season! Earlier this semester, Natalie Turrin successfully defended her dissertation, and will graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Congratulations, Natalie!

Looking ahead, on June 5th we will host our colleagues from across Georgia who engage in LGBT advocacy work at higher education institutions. We look forward to growing, learning, and connecting as we refocus for the summer and plan for the 2019 academic year!

GALA Celebrates With Social Events

GALA’s annual Summer Social was a very cool event!  Originally planned for the backyard deck at the home of Jerry Lowery, the heat of late August drove the crowd of approximately 40 alums, undergrads and guests inside, taking shelter.

Undeterred, the party went on for hours.  Great conversation and fellowship were the order of the day, aided by scrumptious food and drinks.  The party was a great time to embrace ending summer as we began making plans for another academic year.

Also, on October 21st, GALA took to Cox’s Ballroom to celebrate our annual Blue Jean Brunch.  Every year during Emory’s Homecoming, GALA gathers to celebrate the diverse, unified and loving place that instilled in us not only academic excellence, but also excellence in morality, compassion, and justice for all people, regardless of background.  Over 30 Alums and students shared a great buffet with drinks.  Among the attendees was Emory’s new Provost, Dwight McBride.  Joining Emory just this past July, Provost McBride mingled with our crowd, highlighting how he is excited to work with Emory’s nine schools and colleges to promote a curriculum of academic excellence and inclusivity.

GALA’s Annual Theater Outing was held on February 8th at Actor’s Express.  This year’s show was Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning Angels in America, Part 1.    Over 20 GALA Alums and guests gathered for wine & cheese and sandwiches before the show.  There were two intermissions, so we kept returning to the table for more food and wine as the evening progressed.  It was a great outing!

Coming up on the GALA social calendar are the Pride Awards on February 28th.  After that, look for plans on another great Summer Social.

Out on Campus Spotlight with Sam Lopez

Sam Lopez is a current student at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory and the leader of the Queer/Trans Collaborative.

Neil Vasudeva is GALA’s Member-at-Large.

 

NV: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Rollins for your graduate degree?

SL: After graduating from Auburn with degrees in Microbiology and French, I spent several years in the workforce, including a year in Belgium as a Fulbright researcher. I decided that to further my career, I needed a Master’s degree. Rollins provides an opportunity not only to study at the intersection of my interest in infectious disease and social determinants of health, but also to network with public health professionals at all levels of the field.

 

NV: How has your Rollins experience been from an LGBT+ perspective?

SL: Rollins has been amazing. I went to a fairly conservative undergraduate institution, and have worked in some less than accepting environments. The general Rollins experience is not only accepting, but also celebratory of the diversity of human experiences represented at the school. While there have certainly been times where I’ve needed to “call someone out” for their words or actions, those have been the minority of my experiences.

 

NV: What challenges do you think LGBT+ students have faced during your time at Rollins?

SL: Two particular challenges come to mind. One is very public health related, which is the mentality that being gay is a vector for disease. It is frustrating to sit in classes where the example of a disease risk is “being gay”. The conflation of risky sexual behaviors with all sexual and gender minorities is one thing that the public health community needs to work on.

Another challenge that is faced not only at Rollins, but seemingly in large sections of the US, is people not recognizing the diversity of gender and sexual identities. As a queer Latina, I don’t appreciate when people ask a gay white man to speak for the entire LGBT+ community. Similarly, being treated as a token queer POC is problematic, as I certainly can’t speak for the experience of my classmates who are bisexual, polyromantic, etc.

 

NV:  How has your experience been leading and being a part of the LGBT+ student organization at Rollins? What hurdles have you faced as an organization (i.e. challenging administration, regulations/rules, etc.)?

SL: Generally, my experience of leading Queer/Trans Collaborative has been great. My fellow executive board members have helped shape impactful and fun programming for the Rollins community, and we’ve been able to bring to campus panels on topics such as research in WSW (women who have sex with women) relationships, student-led research in LGBT+ topics, and more. The Rollins administration has been generally receptive to the work that QTC does. There has been an element of feeling tokenized when being approached by other organizations to ‘collaborate’. Being approached to help cost-share an event does not automatically make the event inclusive. Not all organizations have been willing to put in the time and effort to do the seemingly little things to make events truly inclusive, such as ensuring the use of proper pronouns for all speakers, pointing out research limitations, or highlighting that the LGBT+ community is more than gay and lesbian individuals.

 

NV: What do you believe that Rollins could do to improve the LGBT+ student experience?

SL: One way to improve the student experience overall would be to have ongoing discussions with professors, students, and faculty that gender is not binary. It is an issue that has been discussed in panels and forums, but has not spilled over into the classroom. Other issues, such as domestic violence in same sex couples, the health impacts of discrimination, and intersecting identities are occasionally brought up, but are typically in the minority. Rollins is at the forefront of public health. If we are not challenging social norms and discourse in the classroom and in our research as students, we cannot hope for better health for ourselves or our communities. I don’t think it is out of malice that these things are overlooked, but out of the momentum of the status quo. Professors learned gender as binary from teachers who had learned it that way, and they will perpetuate it for the next generation of professionals. I am hopeful that in holding a mirror up to the institution, and saying “this can be different”, the status quo can be challenged, and eventually changed.

Alumna Spotlight with Jessica Oliveira

Jessica Dias de Oliveira is an alumnus of the Goizueta Business School’s BBA Program and a current Marketing Lead at GE Power in Atlanta, GA. She is an active advocate for LGBT+ folks who are out in the workplace.

Neil Vasudeva is GALA’s Member-at-Large.
NV: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Emory for your undergraduate degree?
JO:
I’m a 1.75 generation Brazilian-American immigrant. I lived in Baton Rouge, LA from the age of 2 until I left at 18 to attend Emory. As a high-achieving low-income high schooler I was awarded a full scholarship to Emory thanks to QuestBridge.
NV: How was your Emory experience from an LGBT+ perspective?
JO: The LGBT+ community definitely enhanced my experience at Emory. I attended the Office of LGBT Life’s open house my first week at Emory and joined Pride (the undergraduate LGBT+ club). I stayed active as a member throughout undergrad and my senior year I was treasurer of Pride. I met a lot of my queer friends in college through Pride and the office and am glad to say that they are some of my closest college friends that I still keep in touch with. A great array of students, alumni, and Emory staff always dropped by the Office of LGBT Life. I got to know so many people over the years including the person who referred me to Google! You never know who you’ll meet in the Office.

NV: What challenges do you think LGBT+ students faced during your time at Emory, and more specifically, Goizueta?
JO:
As LGBT+ students we were lucky that Emory is a relatively open, affirming place for us. I definitely realized this after hearing stories from LGBT+ coworkers who had attended LGBT-unfriendly religious schools where they did not feel comfortable coming out knowing that they could be expelled.

 

That being said, during my time at Emory 4-8 years ago, I remember an unidentified LGBT+ student being kicked out of an off-campus party being called homophobic slurs. I knew of a fellow student who was rejected by their family for coming out. We also had Chick-fil-A at Cox Hall.

 

As an LGBT+ student at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, I felt like I was one of a handful of out BBA students – hardly enough for a quorum of any kind. At the time, we had no out professors (that I knew of) and didn’t have any advisors in the career center that I could approach with my questions about companies’ openness to LGBT+ recruits.
NV:  How was your experience leading and being a part of the LGBT+ student organization at Emory? What hurdles did you face as an organization (i.e. challenging administration, regulations/rules, etc.)?
JO:
I was treasurer of Emory Pride my senior year. To my recollection, we didn’t face any hurdles as an organization. Danielle Steele was our fabulous advisor who helped us with any roadblocks we had.

NV: What do you believe that Emory could do to improve the LGBT+ student experience?
JO:
What I most wanted as a student was a queer mentor, preferably in the business world, that I could connect with and ask for advice. I highly recommend that GALA, the Alumni Association, the Office of LGBT Life and Goizueta team up to create a network of LGBT+ alumni that can be paired with LGBT+ students.

 

NV: What challenges have you faced being out in the workplace since you’ve started your professional career?

JO: I was very fortunate to join Google, a very publicly LGBT-friendly company, right out of college and led the Ann Arbor Gayglers, Google’s LGBTQ + Ally employee resource group. I’m very fortunate to say that I hadn’t had any negative experiences regarding being out in my workplace since I’ve started my professional career.

NV: You’ve been out in the business world for some time – do you have any advice to share with current Emory students who identify as LGBT+ on being out in the workplace?
JO:
I would highly recommend that students take a look at the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index to see how LGBT-friendly large companies are as a starting point.

 

If you’re interviewing with a large company you can ask your recruiter to connect you with an out employee who you can chat with to ask about their experience as an LGBT+ employee. If recruiters are well connected to their colleagues in Diversity and Inclusion, which should also sit under Human Resources, they should have no trouble with this request. I have had conversations with recruits considering Google looking for reassurance that the Google offices outside of California were also LGBT-friendly and I was happy to take 30 minutes out of my day to answer any questions they had.

 

If you’re interviewing with a small- or medium-sized business ask them similar questions to the criteria on the Corporate Equality Index to see if they have an equal opportunity policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, transgender inclusive health insurance, and an LGBT+ employee resource group.