By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
Queer Student Alliance, a new LGBTQ student organization that has emerged on campus in the School of Social Work, will function as a support group and an advocacy group.
Orlando second-year graduate student Lindsey Yaros, president and co-founder of the Queer Student Alliance, said when she came out to trusted friends and faculty members in the School of Social Work, she was accepted and felt welcome. She said her experience led her to co-found the group.
“I wanted to be able to cultivate a space within the School of Social Work specifically to have a space where we can feel comfortable being ourselves and feel accepted, but also, educating other students and faculty and being a voice in the school for other LGBTQ students,” Yaros said.
Yaros said the group is only for students in the School of Social Work, but as the group grows, more students from different schools at Baylor will be able to join.
Yaros also said the Queer Student Alliance is not currently seeking to be chartered.
“We’re really just an unofficial support for specifically the School of Social Work. We want to collaborate with [Gamma Alpha Upsilon] in the future, but right now, our just intention is to have an unofficial space for social work students.”
Anderson, S.C., first-year graduate student Abby Waters, vice president and co-founder of the Queer Student Alliance, said the group will function beyond a support group.
“It has blossomed into a student group that does education, outreach and advocacy for the LGBTQ population,” Waters said. “Basically, it started just for bachelor social work students and master social work students, and then the Alliance aspect of it basically means that anybody who are allies that don’t necessarily identify within the community can also be a part of that, too, in terms of advocacy and outreach … Our hope for next semester and future work is that it will be open to the community, and basically just provide an additional support group for people who are identified within the LGBTQ community.”
Waters said the support group will meet bi-weekly, and those meetings will only be for LGBTQ students for their safety and privacy.
For Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, Waters said the Queer Student Alliance held an event in conjunction with the Waco Trans Group, Waco City Council Representative Kelly Palmer and Central Metropolitan Community Church Reverend Charles Garrison.
“We had close to 80 people come, and we had trans speakers and did a passing of the mic,” Waters said. “It was a really incredible moment for the community of Waco, but especially for me because that was the first time that I had found community and a sense of belonging since I moved to Waco. It was really almost like a holy experience for those two things to occur.”
Waters said their Christian background led to the event being a spiritual moment.
“The reason that I came to Baylor in the first place was to get that holistic perspective of my education, which included a religious perspective as well,” Waters said. “So, to have a reverend there, to have city council representative there, to have the School of Social Work there, to have other Baylor faculty present as well, as well as a vast amount of LGBTQ identifying students there as well, was just kind of a great collaboration of all those and to celebrate trans people and their identities on a day. It was incredibly moving for me.”
Waters said the Queer Student Alliance will host other events like this in the future.
“For Trans Day of Remembrance in November, I’d like to do something with that and collaborate with other student organizations on campus, and do a lot more outreach and advocacy and education,” Waters said. “So some of the other things that we’re planning on doing is implementing a pronoun workshop, like a virtual one, and then an in-person one, hopefully, to talk about more about pronouns and the gender binary and what that means, and how to be respectful in the classroom.”
Next semester, Waters said they will be taking over as president since Yaros is graduating in May.
“I’m looking forward to really collaborating with other student groups to help really try and change the campus climate that’s currently at Baylor right now,” Waters said. “Because what’s happening is not OK when it’s not safe for LGBTQ students or LGBTQ community members. So working and collaborating with other student organizations or perhaps other interdisciplinary faculty members or whomever that might be to create that sense of belonging, and that Baylor holds true to their values and mission statements.”