Monthly Archives: November 2014

GALA Profile: Laura Douglas-Brown 95C 95G

Laura Douglas-Brown 95C 95G serves as editor-in-chief of Emory Report, writing and editing news focused on the university’s internal audience of faculty, staff and students for the Emory News Center, Emory Report eBulletin and special Emory Report print editions.

Before returning to her alma mater, Laura worked for 17 years as a journalist in the LGBT press, first as a reporter and editor of Southern Voice, then as founding editor and co-owner of Georgia Voice. She also served as a communications consultant for the Center for Civil & Human Rights.

LDB photoLaura’s professional honors include being named 2012 Emory University “Change Agent”: One of 20 honored for impacting LGBT campus climate over last 20 years, 2012 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Atlanta Leadership Award 2011 and 2010 National Newspaper Association, second place, Best Newspaper Website (won by GA Voice), 2010 Atlanta Press Club Awards of Excellence: Opinion Writing finalist, 2008 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in the LGBT Press, 2008 Emory University Chesnut Award. 

Today, we asked Laura a few questions.

You’ve long been a supporter of freedom of expression. Why is this important to you?

Both my education and my career have centered on the power of words to inform, educate and inspire. Freedom of expression is a founding tenet of our country and has been the force propelling every protest movement that has moved us closer to actually fulfilling the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.”

Why do you think it’s important to let sometimes dissonant voices be heard?

I think it is important to think about which voices are considered dissonant, and who gets to “let” them be heard. Most of us speak from simultaneous positions of privilege in some areas and oppression, or at least minority status, in others. Generally, power isn’t given; it’s claimed. Speak out.

Can you recall a turning point in your life that shifted your perspective?

During my first year as a student at Emory, back in 1992, I joined in protests directed at the university’s handling of an incident in which two of my friends, a gay couple, were harassed. I attended Emory on scholarship and was afraid the university would retaliate against us; instead, they served us sodas (Coca-Cola, of course) during our sit-in and took our concerns seriously. It affirmed my belief that anyone and everyone — including large, religiously affiliated universities in the South — can change.

What achievement are you most proud of?

It hardly qualifies as an achievement of mine (and certainly not mine alone) but I am most proud of my daughters, and the confident, creative, thoughtful, strong young women they are growing up to be. I remember my own adolescent fears, especially around coming out, and I am grateful that thanks to the hard work of the many local and national activists I had the privilege to cover in Southern Voice and Georgia Voice (as well as untold others) they will live in a world that is much more free. I am also proud of how they are learning to recognize the injustices many still face, and to use their own voices.

With increased focus on civility, which qualities are most important for each of us to embrace?

As important as it is to speak out, it is equally important to listen. People of good intent can disagree without demonizing each other, and I am deeply concerned by the shrill tone of so much of our current national dialogue. This is where universities can play a crucial role in modeling both respectful disagreement and the capacity to listen, grow and change.

How do you encourage people to undertake difficult dialogues?

You join them. You meet them where they are, you listen, you share and you trust that their intentions are as good as your own. You give people room to take risks, to be awkward, to make mistakes — and you give yourself that grace, too.

What makes you happy?

My family. A good book. Music. People coming together for a common cause.

Thanks so much, Laura!

Photo Gallery: Emory Cares and The Names Project

Emory Cares 2014-01004 - Version 2

Emory Cares 2014-01006 - Version 2

Emory Cares 2014-01015 - Version 2

Emory Cares 2014-01024 - Version 2

Emory Cares 2014-01028 - Version 2

Emory Cares 2014-01029 - Version 2

 

Atlanta Pride Parade Report – October 24, 2014

This article is a post Atlanta Pride Parade sequel to Laura Douglas-Brown’s, October 6, 2014, Emory Report from the Emory University News Center. That report was an interview with Michael Shutt, PhD., Interim Sr. Director of the Center For Diversity and Inclusion.  Michael had been named a Grand Marshal of the Parade by the Atlanta Pride Committee.  This article can be found at http://news.emory.edu/stories/2014/10/er _emory_at_atl_pride_parade/campus.html.

In this article, Michael is being interviewed by Maury Weil, Emory College, 1968, who had served as an Atlanta Pride Parade Grand Marshal almost twenty years ago, along with the other two LGBT Senior Advisors to Mayor Maynard Jackson.  Maury, a member of the GALA Steering Committee, was given the privilege of meeting with Michael at Starbucks, sharing war stories, and recapping the importance of Michael’s honor.

The early Pride Parades were important because they gave visibility and a voice to a courageous, sanctioned and hidden LGBT community. The Parade continues that tradition, but also has long been surprising Atlanta’s LGBT community with its own diversity and stature.

Maury: I remember feeling both recognized and honored to act as a Grand Marshal. Those of us in LBGT politics and work get much gratification from serving, but pats on the back are special. What did it mean to you to be there as a Grand Marshal?

Michael:

It was a great feeling to be surrounded by so many amazing people. We had wonderful representation from our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. In addition, it was very inspiring to be positioned among the other Grand Marshals. We were all able to connect with the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, the plaintiffs in the Georgia same-sex marriage case, and my friend Faisal Alam, among others. Their energy inspired us even more!

Maury: I had the joy of marching those many years ago with my lifelong partner and another Emory graduate, Joel Vaughn. By chance I met your wonderful sister and mother on MARTA coming to the parade. What did it mean to have your family there?

Michael:

My husband and I had a great time waving to our friends and colleagues in the crowd. He sometimes does not see me that often because of my work in the community and on campus, so I think it was important for him to receive appreciation as the supportive spouse from the crowd. He is my number one supporter.

Having my sister and mom there was also a lot of fun. My mom had a fan in her hand with a quote reading, “I am Michael’s mom and I am proud.” She was actually the star of the parade.

Maury: For many years in the 1980’s the Atlanta Pride Parade was tiny while there were more than 100,000 marchers in New York and San Francisco. The number of participants leapt after Mayor Jackson appointed the Senior Advisors and the Pride Committee made them Grand Marshals. The parade is a mirror in which we see ourselves and a media event in which we are seen.

Did your role of Grand Marshal increase the visibility of the LGBT community on campus? Did it increase the visibility of Emory in the community?

Michael: 

I felt so much love and appreciation from the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Emory. I suspect that someone at Emory nominated me for this great honor. I was not told who, but I have my suspicions. It gave the community a reason to come together and celebrate the present, but also reflect on the past. There have been many Grand Marshals in the past who are Emory alumni, including Danny Ingram 80 Ox 82C, Julie Kabula 97PhD, Rev. Joshua Noblitt 04T, and you, Maury Weil!!! Emory plays an important role in the LGBT history of Atlanta, and it is an honor to be a part of that history. I hope that my role this year brought even more attention to Emory’s commitment to the community.

Maury: What does the future look like for the LGBT community at Emory?

Michael:

Emory continues to be at the forefront of access, inclusion, and equity. There is still work to be done, but our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are all engaged. In January, 2015, our health insurance plan will include gender affirming surgical benefits for employees. These benefits are already available to our students, demonstrating our commitment to fully inclusive and accessible places of work and study. We continue to see progress in areas of HIV prevention and treatment, an ongoing battle for our community. Emory Healthcare continues to examine ways to meet ALL patient needs, setting the bar for other healthcare providers in the community. This work must continue at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, faith, class, and ability, so we will achieve full access, inclusion, and equity for all. If we stand still, we are sure to slide backwards. I do not believe this can happen with such a dynamic and engaged community at Emory.

GALA Participates in Emory Cares International Service Day

Emory GALA volunteers at The NAMES Project.

Emory GALA volunteers at The NAMES Project.

In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation of The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

On Saturday, November 8, 2014, a group of 15 students and alumni volunteered at the The NAMES Project, one of many volunteer sites that make up Emory Cares International Service Day. GALA has coordinated a project at this site for at least the last 5 years. Emory Cares typically falls in early November, which is perfect timing to assist The NAMES Project in their preparations for World AIDS Day.

Sections of the AIDS memorial quilt.

Sections of the AIDS memorial quilt.

The NAMES Project, located on 14th Street, houses over 48,000 panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. These panels memorialize almost 100,000 individuals who have died from AIDS.  Panels are created by loved ones of the deceased, and are taken around the world to keep their memory alive, along with educating the public about the AIDS epidemic – past and present.

Walking into the warehouse, one sees shelves from the floor to the ceiling in one room and bins from floor to ceiling in another room – all filled with precious quilts. Each quilt panel is 3×6 (intentionally symbolic of the size of coffin), can be made out of any fabric, and may contain any memories the quilt maker(s) want to share. Depending on the material and items attached, the panels may be light or heavy, flat or bulky.  All are lovingly tended to by Gert, the seamstress who has been with The NAMES Project since the beginning. She sews panels together to make large 12×12 blocks, which are then assigned a number. This reference number is used to locate the panel on request. A quilt maker, a family member, friends, or a community may request certain blocks to be displayed at local displays. This number identifies where the quilt is located in the warehouse and/or if it is out travelling. The warehouse also contains many file cabinets – the files are also by the block reference number, and contain any history/stories/ memorabilia that is sent with the quilt.

To prepare for a display, quilts must be pulled, boxed, and shipped. Some displays are small – only requesting one block – others request hundreds of blocks.  In preparation for World AIDS Day, over 400-500 boxes are packed and shipped for the 200-400 displays happening concurrently around the world.  This is where Emory Cares volunteers provide a great service to the organization. They have an extremely meager staff of 2 full time and 3 part time staff members, and are otherwise dependent on volunteers.

When quilts are returned, they must be unboxed, gently cleaned by hand, and examined for any damage.  Any damage is tended to by Gert. Once cleaned and re-folded, all the quilts must be re-shelved in the proper place so they can be located in the future.

If anyone is interested in volunteering –anytime, but especially around the first of the year when the World AIDS Day boxes are coming back – you can contact:

Roddy Williams
Director of Operations
The NAMES Project / AIDS Memorial Quilt
204 14th St  Atlanta, GA  30318
404-688-5500 x224 (office)
404-790-5485 (mobile)

OUT on Campus: Kolia Kroeger 15C

kolia&carterKolia Kroeger 15C is President of Emory Pride, Vice President of the Slavic Club at Emory, and the 2013-2014 recipient of the GALA Leadership Award. Kolia’s preferred pronouns are:  they, them, their.  Since coming out as genderqueer, Kolia became involved with various groups that question the social construction of a gender/sex binary. They are pursuing a double major in Russian Language, Literature, and Culture and History.

Lilly Correa 73C, Co-Chair of GALA, recently interviewed Kolia for this newsletter.

LC:  Your home town is in Texas (Thorndale).  What was your experience growing up as gender non-conforming in a small town?

KK:  The concept of gender variance didn’t really exist in rural Texas.  I imagine that my experience was very different than in urban or suburban settings.

kolia_queerLC:  What brought you to Emory?

KK:  Originally, I came here to be a chemistry major, and to get out of Texas.

LC:  What do you see as the intersectionalities, or lack thereof, of your background, including your race, color, class, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression?  How has your time at Emory helped promote the intersectionality of these different backgrounds for you or other students?

KK:  I had not heard the word until I came to Emory. My strongest first impression was the crossover between my non-normative sexual orientation (at this point I was not even aware of “gender identity”) and class. The people I knew were like “let’s go eat or let’s go out,” and I always just left quietly because I couldn’t afford it.

Only later did intersectionality become a word with real meaning to me. After finding supportive people (only in the last two years), I was able to confront what my gender, race, and economic status mean in a broader context.

I think the college is on the right step by implementing the “Creating Emory” program, but it could be more comprehensive and on-going. The current system introduces new students to words and ideas,  but doesn’t help them to understand why this matters to them or how to incorporate “diversity” or “intersectionality” into their world view.
I feel like the people in the know are working to make things better, but the larger communities of privilege feel little need to be involved.

koliaLC:  Were you involved in the eventual establishment of gender neutral housing at Emory? Tell us about that process.

KK:  While I was deeply interested and worked to advocate for gender neutral housing, it was really Michael Shutt, Interim Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Campus Life, and the residential offices that made that happen.

LC: What needs are you responding to, and what kinds of community-building, programming, and advocacy work are you engaged in on campus?

KK:  I feel there is a stronger need around education in general on campus. There is currently Safe Space Training (directed toward faculty and staff).  However, several students, including myself are working to launch a new program, Queer-Tips.  This program, coordinated by the Office of LGBT Life, is basically a mobile, student/group-oriented program constructed from the basic structure of Safe Space.

LC:  So tell me a little bit about your involvement with Emory Pride.  Are you a facilitator in a special group?

KK:  As President of Emory Pride, my primary focus is implementing the strategic vision for this year (and future years).  A lot of my time is spent either guiding other members of our executive board, looking for funding for our various events and programs, or just doing general outreach.

LC:  What kinds of issues are important to Emory Pride?

KK:  For me, making spaces queer and trans*  friendly is a big part of my work. I hope that this is accomplished through Emory Pride.

LC:  Are there other spaces where you think LGBT students are finding voice on campus?
KK:  Frankly, many LGB students seem as though they don’t need “LGBT Spaces.” I do know of LGB students who hang out in the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, the Emory Black Student Union and the Center for Women.

LC:  What kind of support or involvement, if any, would you like to see from GALA and other alums of Emory?  If you could ask for anything from the administration, what—if anything—would it be?

KK:  Currently, I am asking for reviews on architectural policy regarding gender neutral restrooms.

Updates from the Office of LGBT Life

The Office of LGBT Life started the 2014 fall semester with a couple of significant changes in the staffing of the office.  First, former Director of the office, Michael Shutt, was appointed Interim Senior Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion where he now oversees the Office of LGBT Life, the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, the Office of International Student Life, and the Center for Women at Emory.  Stepping into the Interim Director role is former Assistant Director of the office, Danielle Steele.  Entering her fifth year with the Office, she is excited for a new role and new relationships with alumni!

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Over 75 faculty, staff, students, and alumni walked together in the annual Atlanta Pride Parade in October.  Decked out in Dooley-inspired Pride shirts, members of the Emory community cheered and chanted their way through downtown in Atlanta, led by Emory’s own Honorary Grand Marshal, Michael Shutt.  You can read more about Michael’s honor here.

Participants were stylin'!

Participants were stylin’!

Capitalizing on the success of the Out @ Emory webpage, the Office of LGBT Life hosted a launch event for individuals listed on the page as of October 8th.  Faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are out on campus received shirts in a rainbow of colors, shared lunch, and posed for pictures with one another.  If you would like to be listed on the Out @ Emory page, you can submit your information here.

Fall would not be complete without Emory Pride’s Annual Drag Show. Hosted on Halloween in the Glenn Memorial Auditorium, twelve student groups performed with over 500 people in attendance.  Emory Pride raised over $1,700 with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Georgia Equality Clinic.  Special thanks to alumnus Scot Seitz 09C for judging a spectacular competition!  You can watch videos of the performances at the Office’s YouTube page.

The Office’s Queer Discussion Groups are off to a strong start with five groups meeting weekly, Monday through Friday in the Office.  The groups include Queer & Asian, Queer Students of Color, Queer Men, Transforming Gender, and Bisexual/Pansexual Discussion Group.  In addition to these groups, the Office of LGBT Life is also advising two grassroots student groups:  Queer Christians and BlackOUT, a group for queer Black and African American students.  Over the last five years, the Office has provided advising, space, and monetary support for other new and developing student groups. This enables students to explore the level of interest before seeking formal charters through the Student Government Association.

Mark your calendars for the 23rd Annual Pride Awards at the Miller Ward Alumni House on March 5, 2015!

As always, alumni involvement continues to benefit our students. Contact Danielle Steele at dmsteel@emory.edu if you are interested in being more involved with the Office of LGBT Life.  Thank you!

Letter from GALA’s Co-Chair

As a graduate student at Emory, I always received a warm welcome from GALA members at LGBTQ events on campus. At Homecoming celebrations, holiday socials, and the Pride Awards, our alumni always took time to reach out to me, to ask how things were going, and to encourage me to stay involved in the Emory LGBTQ community after graduation.

It was therefore an easy decision for me to become an active member in GALA after completing my degree. My involvement with GALA over the past year and a half has allowed me to advocate for students, to build meaningful friendships with other alumni, and to give back to the campus LGBTQ community that gave me so much throughout my five years as a student. I’ve been able to experience firsthand what a difference a friendly, supportive, and engaged organization like GALA can do for our students and alumni.Print

GALA has already effected meaningful change on Emory’s campus, and has the capacity to continue to effect change and be a voice for LGBTQ inclusion. Thanks to our strong partnership with the Office of LGBT Life, we have opportunities to serve as mentors, advisors, and friends to students and staff. With our new GALA Outwrite Blog and our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, we can now easily connect with our alumni all over the world and engage them in our work.

Wherever you are, we hope that you’ll consider connecting with GALA in useful and meaningful ways in the years to come. If you are based in Atlanta and you’ve never joined us at an event or monthly meeting, consider this a personal invitation and encouragement to do so in the near future. We can guarantee that you’ll be made to feel welcome and valued, and that you will have plenty of opportunities to expand your network, make friends, learn new skills, and have a tangible impact on the LGBTQ alumni of the future.

And to our current students, take it from me when I say that you shouldn’t wait until after graduation to get involved with GALA. We love getting to know our students and involving you in our community. Joining GALA has made all the difference in my life and I know it will make a difference in yours too.

 Aby Parsons, 13G