Valentine’s day dawned cold and cloudy, but smiles were shining among the Harvard Queer Students and Allies board members as they walked together to the Queer Resource Center, rainbow ribbons pinned to bags and jackets, to vote on the organization’s new mission statement.
As part of their efforts to appeal to a broader range of students and help energize the political arm of the organization, the board voted unanimously on Sunday to change their official mission statement to include a broader range of identities, collaborate with other student groups, increase diversity within the QSA, and take political action.
“This isn’t just the QSA coming together, but all the communities we intersect with,” says QSA Co-Chair Marco Chan ’11. “And that could be anyone and everyone on campus who’s concerned with issues of marginalization.”
Chan says that the new mission statement reflects the group’s increased focus on empowering the gay community and other groups on campus to take action on their own terms.
“We want to open a conversation about how these identities affect people’s lives and how they have political implications, whether through legislation or how people treat you when you walk into a coffee shop,” says QSA Co-Chair Christian L. Garland ’10-’11.
In keeping with the goals of expanding the club’s membership, the new mission statement now includes the words “questioning and allied students” in addition to the list of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students,” which formerly constituted the description of the organization’s membership.
“Having the word ally as part of the mission statement makes it more welcoming to anyone who wants to get more involved in social justice,” says the Women’s Events and Outreach Chair Lena Chen ’09-’10, who has been involved with QSA since her freshmen year in 2005.
She explains that stressing inclusivity in connecting stigmatized groups was important.
“The QSA has always been really good about opening its arms to whoever is interested,” says Chen, who is also a former Crimson magazine writer. “The major transformation over the last few years is that now it has a major political presence.”
A STRONGER POLITICAL IDENTITY
Garland says that one of the group’s new goals is to focus on the link between politics and identity in determining how people from different contexts and backgrounds experience stigmatization.
This is encapsulated in a new clause stating the QSA’s commitment to “the recognition of the marginalization that exists as the result of the intersections of stigmatized identities.”
“When you start considering people’s class, race, gender, gender identity, and social position in Harvard, you’re looking at a lot of political identities at once,” says Garland, a former vice president of the Harvard College Democrats.
Chan says that race and class have a significant impact on how people live in their queer identities.