New student club Sexuality and Gender Acceptance creates space for LGBTQIAP+ individuals

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Rachel Hayes (sophomore), discusses SAGA and its impact on the queer community at Occidental College in Los Angeles Nov. 7, 2018. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

Sexuality and Gender Acceptance club (SAGA) is one of Occidental’s newest clubs and is run by student e-board members Rachel Hayes, Sandy Nguyen and Harrison Kallner (sophomores). When all three students entered their second year at Occidental, they observed a lack of resources on campus geared toward the queer community, according to all three students. SAGA’s role on campus is to foster the queer community on campus, according to Hayes. Nguyen added that the club’s goals are to create awareness around LGBTQIAP+ issues and to create a space on campus for queer and transgender students to be together, according to Nguyen.

“[SAGA’s] existence is in the absence of any other queer-aligned official clubs on campus,” Hayes said. “So me, Sandy and Harrison were basically like, ‘Well we’re all pretty good organizers, we should revamp some sort of something so that this exists for the community on campus, especially in the wake of a lot of resurgence of homophobia.'”

Another LGBTQIAP+ group that currently exists at Occidental is Queer/Trans People of Color (QTPOC); they operate as an entirely student-run affinity group, not an official club, which allows them to have more authority in determining who can participate in the group, according to Nguyen. If QTPOC was an established campus club, QTPOC could not be exclusive regarding club membership due to the Office of Student Life’s membership rules, according to Hayes.

Nguyen said that Occidental’s student body is represented by people of all sexualities and sexual orientations, and SAGA’s presence was formed in response to their needs. While other LGBTQIAP+ clubs exist and have existed on campus, the e-board members felt that there still was not a safe and inclusive space for queer-identifying students to exist, according to Hayes.

“As a student on campus, I’ve acknowledged that there are lots of queer students, lots of trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming students on campus, but we don’t necessarily know who each other are,” Nguyen said. “We don’t necessarily have a space where we can get together and just talk about that and be ourselves. So we want SAGA to be a safe space where we can all gather and just have fun, but also get down to important issues and try to get Oxy to be a campus that’s more accommodating to those needs and concerns, as well as be able to be a leader and fight on campus for queer and trans rights.”

President of the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance, Sandy Nguyen (sophomore), speaks to the role of SAGA at Occidental College’s Green Bean Cafe in Los Angeles Nov. 6, 2018. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

While SAGA aims to center the experiences of those in the LGBTQIAP+ community, they will not require members to disclose their identity to the group. Anyone who feels connected to or part of the community will be welcome in the space. However, they will host some events that will be closed and aimed toward those who identify as queer or transgender, according to Nguyen.

“[SAGA] is a revitalized LGBTQ club on campus for anybody in the student body who identifies that way,” Kallner said. “It’s a club to provide resources for [students]. It provides an inclusive space for all of the students by making it intersectional.”

Officially established Oct. 25, according to Nguyen, the club is currently in the process of establishing itself on campus. Working with Critical Theory & Social Justice professor Heather Lukes as their advisor, club members are currently in the process of brainstorming future events for the spring semester. They hosted a movie screening and discussion of the iconic LGBTQIAP+ film, “Paris is Burning” in Choi Auditorium Nov. 9, according to the SAGA Facebook page.

The club also hosted a holiday meal right before the Thanksgiving break, Nov. 16. At this closed event, titled “Thanxgiving,” SAGA members joined students and faculty in discussing the pressure around going home for the holidays as someone who identifies as queer or trans, since the transition between being a student on campus and living at home can be difficult for those in that position, according to Nguyen.

As the semester is heading toward finals, SAGA decided to only host those two events for this semester and is beginning to plan events for next semester. One goal they hope to achieve is working with other campus clubs to co-sponsor events. QTPOC and A Agenda, a student group that provides a space for those who identify as aromantic or asexual, are two of the clubs they hope to collaborate with, according to Kallner.

“I think next semester will be our big kick-start just because we started out a bit late in the semester,” Kallner said. “But hopefully through word-of-mouth and more visibility, SAGA can become more known. And we also want to collaborate with other clubs, work with other clubs who have similar messages and similar ideas.”

Treasurer of Occidental’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance, Harrison Kallner (sophomore), discusses the role of SAGA in Occidental’s queer community in Los Angeles Nov. 7, 2018. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

The club tabled in the Academic Quad and recruited nearly 100 members, according to Kallner, and their Facebook page is continuing to grow, with more than 100 likes as of Dec. 3. SAGA’s goal is to become more established and to continue supporting students on campus, according to Kallner.

“We’re just asking for the support of students on campus,” Hayes said. “We just want to feel safe in school and have a space where we can just be open and be ourselves in every part of ourselves. Despite all the bull**** that happens in the queer community, we’re still going to exist and we’re still going to be here, and nothing’s going to change that.”

This post was originally published on the morning of Nov. 14. It was pulled that same day at 1:20 p.m. due to various factual errors identified by our sources. It was revised Dec. 3 to clarify that QTPOC is an independent, student-run affinity group, that SAGA has non-exclusive membership in accordance with the rules of the OSL, to add a word to a quote and to include LGBTQIAP+. It was republished Dec. 5 at 8:01 p.m.