GLOW Aims To Welcome Students with Multifaceted Identities
Harvard queer students of color have formed “Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever” (GLOW), a new group that, according to its founders, is the first organization to address the interconnected experiences of underrepresented and marginalized identities.
Various cultural groups, including the Black Students Association and Harvard Radcliffe RAZA, are sponsoring GLOW’s meetings. The group, whose membership is confidential, will hold discussions on social policy, representation, and advocacy, as well as on experiences unique to its members.
GLOW founder Miguel Garcia ’12 described the group as one that creates an environment where people who have felt underrepresented in other campus groups can feel welcome.
“We’re working toward balancing an acknowledgment of differences with a celebration of similarities in order to establish a safe space, a community of trust and unconditional acceptance,” Garcia said.
“It’s previously been thought that if you’re gay and black, for example, that means go to BSA for your black identity and go to QSA for queer identity,” he added. “But those identities are not separate, and you can’t acknowledge them separately because you experience them together.”
History and Literature Lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93—one of GLOW’s co-faculty advisers—stressed that issues of intersecting identities affect how people experience their lives.
“Intersectionality is part of the human condition,” McCarthy said. “We need to be mindful of how the identities that we navigate in different ways, at different times, and with different people, can intersect and impact people’s lives.”
Members of GLOW said they have felt that queer groups and cultural organizations on campus have not fully or explicitly acknowledged such intersectionalities. Garcia said that many of these groups often emphasize similarities between members to provide a sense of belonging, a tendency that can lead to a neglect—whether inadvertent or intentional—of the various identities represented within that group.
GLOW co-facilitator Emma Q. Wang ’12, who is also co-chair of Queer Students and Allies, echoed the idea that navigating areas of difference is a challenge.
“We come together by sharing the identity of being overlooked by a collective identity, and we bond over the acknowledgement of our distinct experiences,” Wang said, adding that GLOW’s aim is not to shun other organizations, but rather to embrace multiple aspects of people’s identity more explicitly.
Bryant D. Wright ’12—a co-facilitator of GLOW and communications chair of the Black Men’s Forum—stressed the difficulty of negotiating his identities as a person who is both African American and gay.
“When you have an identity that is stigmatized, you grow up learning [that] you have a special burden to represent people like you. When I’m the queer guy, I don’t want to leave the black guy behind. And when I’m black, I don’t want to leave my queer identity,” he said.
“Still, I like to carry that burden because it means I have the power to change people’s minds,” Bryant added.
Shanti S. Kris ’12, a GLOW co-facilitator and QSA board member, said that the core purpose of GLOW is to challenge such assumptions and create a safe space.
“The idea is to build a family outside of our traditional families and our traditional community,” she said. “This is an opportunity for people who are not comfortable or have been rejected from racial and ethnic groups to form new bonds, to find new people who can provide support and acceptance.”
Garcia said that while creating an area of support—rather than pursuing political goals—is GLOW’s main objective, he hopes that the presence on campus of a group that addresses intersections of identity will foment a desire to make a difference.
“By inserting cultural identities into queer identities and queerness into cultural identities, GLOW is creating a stronger potential to mobilize and to effect change,” Garcia said. “We’re bringing a face to a community that has been forced to hide itself.”
While GLOW’s meeting times and locations are confidential, GLOW’s co-facilitators said that those interested in attending should contact them.
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.