The Baruch College Gender, Love and Sexuality Spectrum launched LGBTQ History Month on Oct. 10, which will be a month-long celebration of LGBTQ rights, progress and goals looking toward the future.
The event’s annual kickoff of the festivities was a march around the 25th Street Plaza with any and all supporters who wanted to join. Walking into the Newman Vertical Campus’ second floor lobby, onlookers could see many flags of the LGBTQ community hanging from the third floor balcony, as well as a giant poster full of information about events that will be going on throughout the month of October.
Everyone at the event was greeted by friendly faces who handed out rainbow flags and wristbands, as well as waved signs with slogans targeting the event’s objective to raise awareness for the LGBTQ population.
By 1 p.m., the celebration moved to the Plaza, where the entire group marched while waving flags, handing out flyers and chanting slogans such as, “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Transphobia has got to go!” The march served the exact purpose the students were hoping to achieve: promoting visibility for the LGBTQ community.
After the march, the group and their guests moved into an intimate gathering within the NVC to listen to keynote speaker and LGBTQ advocate, Melissa Sklarz. Sklarz, a transgender woman, has worked tirelessly for decades in order to ensure the rights of gay and transgender individuals in all stages of life. Sklarz currently sits as the Director of Development for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
During her speech, Sklarz focused greatly on the importance of youth involvement in the community. She briefly spoke on her history, specifically about her transition in the ‘90s, and how she has since been a leader and an advocate for transgender and gay rights. As Sklarz put it, “I have privilege, and I’m so thankful for that … but the fight [for LGBTQ people of color] is very hard, and we need to work to expand these resources to everyone.”
The important thing to do to progress is have members of the youth rise above the obstacles and fight for a difference, Sklarz asserted. Sklarz commented on how when she was first getting involved in the community, things were very different and it did not have a lot of the resources that are available now, like social media, to spread awareness. People like Sklarz had to work very hard just to be allowed in the same rooms as the people making laws that directly affected the gay community. Now is the time for action more than ever, according to Sklarz, and “… new people need to seize their space.” While many people tend to look for a role model to follow, Sklarz explained, “I didn’t have a role model; I became my own.”
Sklarz left the speech with an emphasis on the concept of doing more; everyone has to be doing something to make a difference. As youth, as college students, as young adults, there is always going to be work that needs to be done. “People get gay and lesbian now, but they don’t get trans,” Sklarz said, commenting on progress in the United States. Not only that, she asserted, but embracing the obstacle at hand is making laws that will work for all of New York and, eventually, beyond. Sklarz noted how, even in New York City, there is a lack of support in numbers, and as far as public policy goes, “… these things need to work in New York City, and also work in Buffalo and Almira.”
Sklarz has worked for decades now trying to change public policy and laws to better represent the LGBTQ community and their needs. Like the G.L.A.S.S. theme for the month, raising awareness through visibility, she has achieved so much through making herself known to the public and demanding the people’s attention. Her speech to the group was a perfect sendoff to the month’s activities, which will be posted throughout the month.
G.L.A.S.S. has many events planned throughout the month. On Oct. 17, there will be a safe zone training during club hours, and later in the day, there will be an “LGBTQ+ and Allies Meet and Greet.” Later in the week, on Oct. 19, there will be an Open Mic Night in the Bookstore Café. Following that, on Oct. 21 in Mason Hall, there will be “The Gay and Lesbian Big Apple Corps Concert.”
On Oct. 24 there will be a meet and greet with Sara Davis Buechner, who will be performing works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frédéric Chopin and Anton Arensky, as well as her own arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody No. 2.” On Oct. 26 there will be two events, “Wear Your Colors — Tie Dye” during club hours, and the “Out and Active Panel” later in the evening. On the next day, there will be an “Explore NYC’s LGBTQ Culture” event, featuring a tour of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. The final night of events will be on Oct. 31, ending the month with the “10th Annual Fright Night,” a costume dance party.
“It’s really important to have [LGBTQ History Month] — just like you have Latinx History Month or Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Black History Month. These are all really important things because it raises awareness, it puts a spotlight on these communities … And just like they deserve that spotlight, the LGBTQ community deserves that spotlight as well. A college recognizing that group of people and giving them the opportunity to dispel any stereotypes, to educate people on LGBTQ sensitivity, to allow them to have a focus on community bonding is very, very important,” said Gabe Roman, co-chair of LGBTQ History Month, on the month’s importance in Baruch.