My ‘About Me’ video just dropped an hour ago. If you want to blow your mind, check it out.
It’s 3 minutes and 30 seconds or so of amazingness. Shot mostly on location in my exotic and luxurious Sparks, Nevada office. I also got to spend a lovely day with Debbie last Saturday, looking for rainbow things and taking photos and video footage all over Reno. I learned how to splice together film and audio, how to make the sound loud and quiet and how to add text and credits to a video.
I have to give credit to Nick Gapp, Media Production Specialist, at Dynamic Media Lab at UNR, who helped me with my video when I had gotten a little too “extra” and got lost in the sequence. He also showed me the ins and outs of sound mixing.
The Queer Grad Collective (QGC) is an officially-sanctioned Graduate Student Association (GSA) University of Reno (UNR) social club. I met via Zoom this week with M (she/her/they/them) to learn more about them and the club’s origins.
M is a grad student pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing, particularly in the genre of science fiction. They hail from the fine state of Washington. Two years ago, M met Cas (she/her/he/him/they/them) on Lex, a text-centered social app that connects queer lovers and friends (I had to look that one up). Cas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Science realm, had posted that there were no queer resources for graduate students at UNR. M and Cas met virtually and quickly came up with a constitution, found a network of students and faculty to support the group, and brought the school on board to found the QGC.
QGC’s mission is to make and create a safe community for queer graduates and people throughout the campus. They have long-term plans to engage in activism, but for now, they are a social organization.
The group meets currently every other Friday from 11-noon. They started two years ago in a virtual environment, then moved to in-person, then back on-line. M said that they generally have about ten to fifteen people attend each meeting.
Right now, they are planning an end-of-semester afternoon picnic bash at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno sometime in the first two weeks of May.
M said to join the mailing list or log into Discord (I haven’t figured either of these things out yet) to get the details on the event.
Being a social group, their primary objective is connecting people on campus. They have an Instagram @qgc_unr. And they maintain this elusive listserve that I have yet to find.
M said that their marketing strategy thus far has been
Put up flyers at UNR campus bulletin boards
Use the QLAB listserve
Bulk emails to UNR department
Maintain an Instagram presence
Set up tables at the GSA club fair and other events
Partner with other student organizations, both graduate and undergraduate
They have plans to connect with Our Center in the near future.
When I asked M what they are particularly proud of being involved with at QGC, they said that they are just proud that QGC still exists. M said that it has been tough in the last two years under COVID-19 restrictions to meet people in a town new to them and get to know each other virtually.
Nonetheless, QGC has partnered with the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), the student government of UNR, to host a Q&A for students. They’ve hosted a joint holiday party. They’ve partnered with the undergraduate Queer Student Union (QSU) on a gender-affirming closet exchange and plan to host a mentorship program with them next year. They’ve also partnered with QLAB; the local chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM); and UNR Pride.
When I asked about plans for the future, M said they had no hard plans right now because of the lingering uncertainty of COVID. M did tell me about their undergraduate queer center in Washington, which had its own dedicated space, held book clubs, support groups, and bitch and stitches. Though M didn’t specifically say that was the goal, we did discuss how it would be great to have a place where all the LGBTQ organizations could meet and hold space.
Like me, M is excited to attend their first Pride in Nevada and see how the Biggest Little City does it. When I asked what is one of M’s favorite queer spaces or events in Reno, they told me the Holland Project. I had never heard about it before; M says it’s an all-ages venue with a really cool art space and art classes. M looks forward to going to a show there soon.
When I asked M what they want people to know about QGC, they said they want people to know that QGC is working to foster the first explicit community on the UNR campus for queer graduate students. QGC is achieving this through community building activities and hopes to continue in the future with social activism and engagement.
This is the second installment of my interview with Ms. Sherrie Scafidi, the president of the Transgender Allies Group, or TAG. TAG is mostly a lobbying organization for transgender rights, but they provide extensive resources for those who are seeking legal gender identity changes, including a flow chart on how to do it.
She also helps those not in the community by educating, speaking, and acting as a “standardized patient,” which is someone who plays the part of the patient at a medical school and guides the med student or nurse practitioner in the proper language and treatment of a transgender person. There is a great article from my very own UNR where Sherrie is quoted and photographed.
What are some of the things that you have done with TAG that you are particularly proud of?
A transgender person no longer has to publish their name change in the newspaper. When she changed her name in January 2017, it had to be listed in the newspaper. The law which changed that was passed in the 2017 legislative session one month later, in February.
A transgender person no longer has to prove by a third party to the DMV that they are who they say they are. She said that when she changed her driver’s license, she had to get a third-party doctor to verify who she was. Now, Nevada is one of the few states that has an X gender and no verification now needed.
Sherrie also works full-time currently and is the president of PFLAG, the first and largest organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies. She also has her own consulting business where she gets paid to educate and speak. She works with local security firms to educate their guards on the laws surrounding gender and bathroom use in Nevada.
In what little free time I can’t imagine she has much of, she loves to cook. She said that she spends all her money on shoes, cooking stuff, and model railroading. She also still has all the equipment from when she had worked as a gunsmith.
Sherrie identifies as a lesbian. She laments that the local lesbian community is not as welcoming to her as a transgender woman as she wishes they were. As a member of that community, I was saddened by that statement but I also recognize that, though a generalization, my experience is similar. I believe it may be due to a lack of understanding (and maybe even empathy?).
Sherrie wants people to know that if they are transgender, they can help out the community by being open and visible if they are brave enough. She would love to start back up her half-hour radio show about LGBTQ individuals that was cut short by COVID-19. She sees the value in growing a national audience for something like that.
I couldn’t have a queer-in-Reno brand, originating out of my University of Nevada, Reno personal branding class taught by Angela Rudolph without discussing the resources for the LGBTQ community on the UNR campus.
This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Erin Edgington, Ph.D., and chair-elect of QLAB, the Queer and LGBT Advocacy Board. She is one of the 6 chairs of QLAB.
According to the organization’s website, QLAB is comprised of out and allied faculty and staff and it makes ongoing assessment of attitudes and conditions throughout the University regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and Queer persons and issues.
Erin explained that QLAB started only just a few years ago as a task force. One of their primary objectives was to make sure that bathrooms were available for transgender people on campus.
QLAB is mostly for staff and faculty. They do liaise with the students organizations. Many of the members act as faculty advisors for the student organizations.
They hold monthly meetings (or so) while in class and hold social events as well. Erin sees their main purpose is for advocacy and social events. They do perform many valuable services at UNR. They have an active core group of 8-10 UNR faculty and staff memebers, and then another few dozen who attend their events throughout the year.
The main service of QLAB is safe zone and allyship trainings. They have ten to twenty requests for training every semester. Many trainings had been over Zoom in the last two years, which were successful with some adjustments.
QLAB maintains a few subcommittees, including one devoted to helping with these trainings. They also have a subcommittee on communication, which helps to provide information about the organization and events and their UNR LGBTQIA+ Resource Guide.
QLAB has traditionally participated in the Unity Graduation ceremony, including the Lavender Graduation. They hosted a DJ on screen this past year for the event on Zoom. QLAB helps the Associated Student Union of Nevada, or ASUN through donations and time. The organization contributes and shows up where it can and also tries to hold some of its own events. QLAB tries to amplify the voices of the LGBTQ students at UNR.
Erin said that one of the things she wants people to know about QLAB is that they are here. She said that affinity groups like QLAB are not a part of the faculty onboarding process, and most new faculty and staff don’t know about QLAB until they receive a survey at the end of the year. She also wants people to know that, though QLAB is centered at UNR, they are not a student group.
Another important service piece that QLAB provides is the UNR LGBTQIA+ Resource Guide. QLAB works hard to keep the guide current. They saw a need with a fragmented Northern Nevada LGBT community. They saw other affinity groups compiling similar resource packages and decided to put one together themselves.
When I asked Erin what event or part of QLAB she was most proud of, she told me about a career panel that QLAB held with Edible, the local food magazine. The speakers talked about their professions and it was an opportunity for 50 students or so to learn about different careers. It also fit the University’s career-readiness objectives.
As I delve more into the student resources at UNR for the LGBTQ community, I look forward to crossing paths with QLAB. If you know someone who might be interested, please forward the Resource Guide to them. And please take a look at it. It has a lot of really great information.