Category Archives: Out on Campus

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!

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.

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!

Out on Campus – Leo Ragazzo

Cover PhotoLike many of us, Leo Ragazzo found Emory because of its strong academic reputation. What makes Leo’s discovery of Emory a bit unique is that he was recruited to play for the Emory University men’s varsity soccer team. Wearing the number 13, Leo appeared in 37 games during his playing career and has been recognized for his defensive talents as a UAA Defensive Athlete of the Week during his final season.


Leo came out to his parents after a soccer game during his second year, and he explained that he wanted them to be some of the first people he told. He found his coming out experience to be a very positive one because he “encountered a lot of support through the initial ‘coming out’ process.” The resources provided through the Office of LGBT Life proved important to this positive experience because he was able to attend some of the discussion groups and connect with other members of the Emory LGBTQ community.


For Leo, coming out was his opportunity to express himself completely. In his own words, “it wasn’t like I was keeping this secret that was about to shoot out my ears or anything, but just the ability to express myself completely was such a powerful, new experience.” He reflects that his second year was also the time when he discovered his passion for the environment and animals, and was also when he started his work in Residence Life as a sophomore advisor.


Looking back on his time as a varsity athlete, Leo sees an area of his undergraduate experience that was less positive. As far as he’s aware, he’s the first openly gay man on the varsity soccer team in either a long while or possibly ever. Because of this, he experienced micro-aggressions on a regular basis:


I thought they would’ve stopped after my team knew I was gay, but that didn’t really happen, unfortunately. There were many “teachable moments” I guess you could say. A lot of explaining why certain words or phrases might be hurtful even if my teammates “didn’t mean it that way.” I think Emory varsity athletics can improve here. I think there is a space to make Emory athletics as a whole a more LGBTQ-inclusive environment. I won’t say my experience as an openly gay varsity athlete was horrible, because it wasn’t. In fact, some of my best Emory memories are on that field. But, I will say that environment wasn’t always a safe space for me.


He admires Emory’s dedication to supporting LGBTQ students, but also understands that for many students, staff and faculty, the opportunity to find a safer space to come out may not exist. Leo hopes the events he became familiar with that helped him find power in his identity will provide others with the same feeling.


As Leo prepares to graduate, he is completing majors in Environmental Sciences and Biology and plans to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. Leo has also remained very involved in Residence Life and now serves as the Senior Resident Advisor for Hamilton Holmes and J. Pollard Turman Halls. It was a Residence Life-related class assignment where he finds one of the most reflective moments of his four years at Emory. The assignment was to facilitate a presentation providing ten words describing who he is. Leo was quick to share the last word: proud. “I am proud of who I’ve become, and I know being a part of the LGBTQ community [at Emory] has helped me get there.”

Update from the Office of LGBT Life

LGBTLifeAfter a busy spring semester, the Office of LGBT Life spent most of the summer resting and planning for the upcoming fall semester. In June, the Office had the unexpected, but much welcomed, task of celebrating the marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. Emory community members from all around campus joined the Interim Director of the Office, Danielle Steele, in a toast to marriage equality, complete with rainbow cake! The Emory Report was on hand to take pictures and do a write-up of the festivities. Their report, which was posted on the official Emory University Facebook page, can be found here.

The Office of LGBT Life was also pleasantly surprised and honored to be named by as the most LGBT friendly university in the state of Georgia. This honor led to an interview of Danielle by WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station, in which she briefly spoke of the establishment of the Office of LGBT Life in 1991 and of the programs currently offered to Emory students. The interview can be found here.

Creating Emory
Staff of the Office of LGBT Life as well as numerous staff members from the Center for Diversity and Inclusion recently served as trainers for Creating Emory, Emory’s first year orientation program. Focusing on diversity, inclusion, values clarification, and sexual assault prevention, trainers completed several trainings in preparation to discuss these issues at length with current Resident Advisors and Orientation Leaders. These RAs and OLs will now have a series of conversations with each student of the incoming class about the Emory community of care we hope to create. Assistant Director of Regional Volunteer Programs and Emory Alumni Association’s Liaison to GALA, Latasia Woods, partnered with Danielle to train 17 Resident Advisors and Orientation Leaders. We look forward to a healthier, more informed, and more empowered Class of 2019!

This fall, the Office of LGBT Life staff will welcome two new graduate students and four undergraduate students to the team. Stay tuned to learn about all the great programs and projects they bring to campus this semester! The Office of LGBT Life has also welcomed five new Safe Space facilitators from across campus to facilitate this cornerstone program. We thank them for volunteering their time, skills, and knowledge to make Emory a safer campus for LGBT students, faculty, and staff!

Finally, we already have one event on the calendar for the fall semester. In collaboration with the Career Center and sponsored by Macy’s, the Office of LGBT Life is happy to announce the Out at Work Panel on October 26th at 6:30pm. We will welcome alumni from a variety of fields to chat with current students about the opportunities and challenges of being out in interviews, during internships, and at workplaces.If you have interest in being on the panel, please let Danielle know!

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

Update from the Office of LGBT Life

LGBT Life Pic

The Office of LGBT Life had a busy and exciting spring semester, filled with several events.  In particular, the Office hosted three networking nights as part of the “Out in…” series.  Designed to connect LGBTQ students with out faculty, staff, and professionals in their fields of interest, the “Out in…” series has grown this year to include multiple campus sponsors and collaborators.

First, on February 23rd, the Office partnered with the Career Center to host Out in Healthcare.  Held in the School of Medicine, students pursuing or thinking of pursuing careers in healthcare were able to connect with faculty, professionals, and alumni in medicine, public health, nursing, and allied health to discuss the advantages and challenges of being out in their respective fields.  Additionally, students were able to connect with one another across year and school to form a broader LGBTQ healthcare community.

In April, the Office coordinated back-to-back networking events with Out in Law and Out in Business.  Student organization OUTLaw helped secure space, and Office of LGBT Life Advisory Committee member Tim Holbrook invited members of the Stonewall Bar Association to network with current and prospective law students to discuss degrees of acceptance in various law fields.  Later that same week, the Goizueta Business School and the Career Center collaborated with the Office to host the Out in Business networking night and panel.  Office of LGBT Life Advisory Committee member Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo worked with the Office to secure a diverse panel of current and former Goizueta students, including GALA members Renee Weese 02EMBA and Markbradley Kitay 14B, to discuss the topics of coming out in different business settings and the challenges and advantages of being out in applications, interviews, and the workplace.  Many thanks to all of the alumni who helped make this year’s “Out in…” series a success!

In March, the Office celebrated the 23rd Annual Pride Awards at the Miller-Ward Alumni House.  Office of LGBT Life Advisory Committee members recognized this year’s winners who included students, alumni, organizations, and faculty members who represent the Office’s mission of creating an affirming and just campus environment.  Awards included the Outstanding Transgender Advocate Award, Outstanding Ally of the Year Award, Chesnut LGBT Person of the Year Award, Fierce Leadership Award, Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe Keeping the Faith Award, and the GALA Leadership Award.  The Alum of the Year was GALA’s own Malcolm Bruni, 92C.  In addition to the award winners, student leaders who received support from the J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund and D. Daniel D. Adame Student Leadership Fund were recognized.  Finally, 2015 graduates were recognized for their academic achievements with lavender diplomas and rainbow graduation cords.  Congratulations to our award winners and our graduates!

Finally, the spring semester ended with the announcement that Danielle Steele, current Interim Director of the Office of LGBT Life, has also assumed the role of Interim Director of the Center for Women at Emory.  In this joint role, Danielle will continue to strengthen the programs and lead strategic planning efforts for both the Office of LGBT Life and the Center for Women.

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

Out on Campus: Kayley Scruggs

Kayley Scruggs is a rising junior from Jackson, Mississippi, and a candidate for the Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program. Aby Parsons 13G, Co-Chair of GALA, interviewed Kayley about her activism, her experiences of queer community at Emory, and her goals for life after graduation.

Kayley Scruggs


AP:  You’re from Jackson, Mississippi. What made you decide to stay in the South for college?

KS:  Unlike many socially and politically progressive southerners, I am immensely proud to be from the South. I believe that southerners hold a certain demeanor that transcends simple southern hospitality; warmth and generosity are innate to us individually. I have witnessed profound acts of compassion that constitute my faith in the South’s aptitude for progress. I believe that the South can make great leaps toward achieving social justice, and I want to be a part of helping my southern communities do exactly that.

AP:  You’re a fierce advocate and activist in the reproductive justice movement. Can you tell us how you came to be involved in doing that work, and why it’s important to you?

KS:  I have identified as a feminist since I was 12 years old, which is what started my path to activism. When I decided to become a midwife a few years later, I began recognizing how pregnant women are mistreated by the United States healthcare system. My interest began with birth justice, mostly focusing on the demonization of home birth and the epidemic of medically unnecessary Caesarean sections. Soon, I realized that society’s failure to respect a person’s right to access a safe, empowering birth and the right to a safe, respectful abortion share the same root: patriarchy’s regulation of body autonomy. This realization led me to broaden the scope of my advocacy. Reproductive justice is my biggest passion and top priority because the status of reproductive autonomy affects everyone–whether you have a uterus or not. When one person’s reproductive rights are violated, bodily autonomy for their entire community is threatened.

AP:  How does your bisexual identity and your participation in LGBTQ communities inform your reproductive justice activism (or vice versa)?

KS:  To me, LGBTQ equality is a reproductive justice issue, and reproductive justice is essential to LGBTQ liberation. Recognizing this connection fuels my passion for both movements and inspires me to create safer spaces in my work. For example, my experience in the LGBTQ community informs me that not only straight women require reproductive health care, and changes the way I communicate about reproductive justice.

AP:  Tell us a bit about your involvement with LGBTQ groups and issues on campus.

KS:  I served on the executive board of Emory Pride my first and second years at Emory, and I began working at the Office of LGBT Life in the second semester of my second year. Being involved with the LGBTQ community at Emory has been essential to developing my personal relationship with my bisexual identity. In a few short months, I went from being out to a handful of people to an entire campus and many of my friends back home. Being around such unapologetic queer people pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible; my experience with the Emory LGBTQ community gave me the confidence I needed to demand that my identity be acknowledged and respected.

AP:  You were a recipient of an award from the Aycock Leadership Development Fund this past year, and were able to go with Emory students to Creating Change, the national conference on LGBTQ equality. What were some of your highlights from that experience?

KS:  Creating Change allowed me to share space with people who shared my passion for both reproductive justice and LGBTQ issues. Although the two movements intersect in many ways, it is rare to be in a space that explicitly connects them. Nearly a week of hearing about other LGBTQ activists’ work to expand access to reproductive care and sharing experiences with them was one of the most inspiring times of my life. In addition to the overwhelming inspiration, Creating Change is wonderful because it is one of the safest places to be exactly who you are. No matter what your identity or your passion, there is someone there who you have something in common with. Instead of hearing the normal response of “What is that?” when I say that I’m pansexual or an aspiring midwife, I hear “Me too!” or “That’s so cool!” several times per day.

AP:  You’ve shown a lot of courage by being a vocal and visible advocate for the issues you care about. Who are some of your role models that inspire your activism and leadership?

KS:  I am inspired by women every day. The strength that I see in women I don’t even know astounds me and is my inspiration for all that I do. More personally, I am inspired by my co-escorts at the last abortion clinic remaining in Mississippi. I have been volunteering as a clinic escort there for a little less than a year, and I quickly developed a profound sense of respect for three of the women who have dedicated themselves to defending our clinic against the anti-choice protestors who line the sidewalk outside of it. We are connected by the work of supporting our patients and other women everywhere, and they have taught me how to be a fearless, loving activist.

AP:  What is something you wish the Emory community understood about LGBTQ students?

KS:  I wish that non-LGBTQ students understood that being an ally is a continuous, demanding process that requires a lot of self-education. I wish that members of the Emory community would grow to be more comfortable with saying “I made a mistake. I’m sorry, and it won’t happen again,” instead of becoming defensive when someone feels threatened by their words or behavior. Overall, I hope that the Emory community will realize that caring communication is essential to creating safe space for LGBTQ students.

AP:  What kind of support or involvement, if any, would you like to see from GALA and other alumni of Emory?

KS:  I would like to see GALA helping to bridge the gap between Emory’s LGBTQ students and the Atlanta LGBTQ community. Many LGBTQ alumni are politically and socially active, and I would like to see Emory students become more involved in LGBTQ activism and volunteering. I believe that GALA could be a rich resource for the mentorship of Emory’s LGBTQ students, and I would love to learn more about the advocacy work of GALA members in the Atlanta community and beyond.

AP:  What are your hopes and goals for the remainder of your time at Emory? What do you hope to do after you graduate?

KS:  I  will be entering the School of Nursing this fall, and while I am there I hope to strengthen the presence of the LGBTQ community in Emory’s nursing program. It is one of the only schools at Emory that does not have an LGBTQ student group, which will hopefully change within my time remaining at Emory. I am also excited to become involved with Nursing Students for Reproductive Health and connect with more pro-choice students at Emory. After I graduate, I hope to be immediately a compassionate nurse, eventually an empowering midwife, and always a powerful advocate for social justice.

OUT on Campus: Samantha Allen 15G

Samantha Allen

Samantha Allen

Samantha Allen 15G is a PhD Student in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. She writes about gender, sexuality, and technology. She is a contributor for The Daily Beast, and her opinion pieces appear regularly at The Daily Dot. Her work has also appeared on Rolling StoneThe Advocate, SalonHuffington Post, Mic, Kinsey Confidential, Jacobin, and in Adult Magazine. 

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

LC: You were raised in a Mormon household. What was your experience growing up?

SA: Mormonism is inimical to any form of gender or sexual variation, and my personal experience with it was suffocating. There are LGBT Mormons who stay in the church hoping to change it from within, but that life wasn’t for me. Growing up, I was told first that homosexuality was an immoral choice, second that it was a tolerable condition like alcoholism. I lived my entire life feeling like I was a sinner until I realized in my early twenties that the problem was with the church and not with me.

LC: What brought you to Emory from Rutgers?

SA: It’s sort of an accident. I went to Rutgers for Linguistics, but the courses in that department were so overloaded that I ended up double majoring in Women’s & Gender Studies to fill my time. By my junior year, I was much more interested in studying gender and sexuality than I was in diagramming sentences, so I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Women’s Studies instead of Linguistics. Emory has one of the highest-ranking PhD programs in that field. I somehow got accepted, and I’ve been here for five years now.

LC: What is your dissertation topic?

SA: My dissertation is about sexual fetishism, and it looks at everything from sneezing fetishism to erotic vomiting. [Side note: The answer to the question “Is there a fetish for X?” is always “Yes.”] Most theories of sexual fetishism would think of these seemingly bizarre practices as evidence that the “sex drive” has been diverted into bizarre territory, but my dissertation asks what it would mean to think of fetishes as having completely legible affective (or emotional, in non-academic speak) motivations instead.

LC: Tell us about your fellowship with the Kinsey Institute?

SA: In 2013, I was selected to be the John Money Fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University in Bloomington. I spent three weeks in their incredible archives reading everything from 1920s pulp magazines to 1940s fetish scrapbooks to 1980s fetish newsletters. I’ve used a lot of this material for my dissertation, but, more importantly, I met my partner at the Kinsey Institute, and we’ve been together ever since. She was sitting across from me in the reading room doing some research of her own; we got in the elevator at the same time one day, and the rest is history.

LC: In addition to your own blog, you also write for the Daily Beast.  What has been the best received column and the most controversial column?

SA: The best received column was also one of my most recent: a piece about Kate Brown, the first bisexual governor in the United States, and what her new visibility means for bisexual Americans, so many of whom are still in the closet compared to gay men and lesbians. It was particularly gratifying for that piece to get a positive response because I don’t identify as bisexual myself, and it feels good to get something right when you don’t have a personal experience with the subject matter.

As for controversy, I’ve gotten so much social media and email pushback over my columns, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve heard from anti-abortion evangelicals, homophobic Mormons, diehard Confederates, anti-feminists, Silicon Valley tech investors, and more. When you write about women’s and LGBT issues for a large outlet, almost everything you write will be construed as controversial.

LC: What do you see as the intersectionalities, or lack thereof, of your background, including your race, color, 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?

SA: I’m a white, queer, femme woman from an upper-class Mormon background. Emory has helped me become who I am, but there are also so many ways in which you can become complacent here as a white person who comes from money. For me, Emory is an easy place to be LGBT because it feels designed around and for my experience. I’ve tried over the last year especially to stay in tune with the needs of LGBT students of color and our gender non-conforming students especially.

LC: Tell us about your activism. When did it start?  Was there a defining event?

SA: My activism started in college when I left the Mormon Church and transferred to Rutgers. Leaving the church was that galvanizing moment of realization for me. I started to see the world through new eyes and pay attention to forms of oppression that I had been told were nonexistent or exaggerated. In college, I did more protesting and marching than I can do now. In graduate school, I started to channel more of my energy into my writing and my work with the Office of LGBT Life. I facilitated one of our discussion groups for a year and a half, and I’ve been working for the office for a bit longer than that.

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

SA: This year, Danielle Steele and I have been focused on creating networking opportunities for LGBT students interested in careers in healthcare, law, and business. GALA has played a crucial role in making these events happen.

Over the last two years, I’ve also helped to develop the Office of LGBT Life’s programming around Transgender Day of Remembrance in coordination with the Trans-forming Gender Discussion Group. This past November, we held our second memorial service, this time with participation from Glenn United Methodist Church and the Reconciling Ministries Network.

I have also been working on an outreach program called LGBTQ-tips that divides our Safe Space curriculum into more bite-sized portions. Some departments and student groups want training, but they don’t have a three plus hour block in which all of their members are free, so LGBTQ-tips can hopefully bring the knowledge to them. We’ll be developing that further this semester, and hopefully launching it next academic year.

LC: Tell us about your current position in the Office of LGBT Life.

SA: I’ve been the graduate assistant in the Office of LGBT Life for almost two years now. What that means is that you probably got a lot of emails from me. Behind the scenes, I’m coordinating events, running the office’s social media channels, creating a lot of our advertising, and keeping the office open when Michael Shutt and Danielle Steele are off doing the more important work across the university.

LC: What kinds of issues are important to you and any facilitator groups you may belong to?

SA: I’m especially passionate about the intersections of feminist and LGBT activism. It’s why I made time to be a part of the Vagina Monologues while also working for the office last year. And even though I haven’t had time to participate in it this year, I was part of initial conversations with alumna Lauren Guilmette and Center for Women Program Coordinator Tiffany Del Valle that led to the reemergence of the Queer Women’s Group this year.

LC: Are there other spaces where you think LGBT students are finding voice on campus?

SA: I’ve been so pleased by the growth of both the Queer Students of Color discussion group and BlackOUT, a new student-led, black LGBTQ group, over the last year. As the national discussion around police violence and systemic racism has reached critical mass, it also seems like discussions around the intersections of race and LGBT identity have been gaining traction at Emory. I’m excited to see how those discussions continue to take shape in conjunction with the newly-formed Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

LC: What are your priorities or goals for the next academic year?

SA: I’m graduating this semester and leaving the academic world to continue my career as a writer and journalist. But given that LGBT issues are central to my writing, I’m going to carry the knowledge I’ve gained from working in the Office of LGBT Life with me and hopefully put it to good use in the public sphere.

LC: What kind of support or involvement, if any, would you like to see from GALA and other alums of Emory?

SA: I’d love to see GALA members at the Pride Awards as well as at all our “Out in…” events this semester! I’d also encourage everyone to sign up for the Out @ Emory website and get their free T-shirt in any color of the rainbow from Michael Shutt’s office.

LC: If you could ask for anything from the administration, what—if anything—would it be?

SA: As a student, former graduate instructor, and employee of Emory, I’ve seen the university from a lot of different angles. After five years, I can say that the people I’ve seen struggle the most with belonging and thriving here are Black and Latino/a students. I’d like to see more support for those students and more attention paid to the barriers that stand in their way at Emory.

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.