The Rainbow at PA Hosts Inaugural Open Office Hours

In order to bring awareness to LGBTQIA+ related topics on campus, “The Rainbow at PA” offered its inaugural open office hours and private Q&A sessions to faculty members last Wednesday, October 30.

“The Rainbow at PA” is a Tang Institute project created by Marisela Ramos, LGBTQIA+ Adult Coordinator. According to Ramos, her project focuses on creating an accepting visual representation of Andover for current and prospective LGBTQIA+ students.

Ramos said, “The thing about sexual orientation or sexuality is that it’s not always visible, unlike race or gender at times. When[ LGBTQIA+] students come to this campus, how can they be sure that this community is one that they belong [to] and one that will accept them? That’s what my project is trying to foster. It can be simple visual cues, such as rainbow stickers or flags.”

In thinking of expanding on such simple visual representations, Ramos decided to communicate with other faculty members on ways to incorporate LGBTQIA+ related topics to the overall curriculum and discussions, as well as suggesting effective methods of reaching out to students that are struggling to come out. According to Ramos, the project plans on continuing such sessions throughout different times of the year.

“I am currently working on different ways to expand that visibility. Some of it is in my classroom, but the more important question is how can I be a resource for other students and adults around this campus. Last Wednesday’s office hours was one of those moments where I tried to be a helpful resource for other adults on this class with the same interests,” said Ramos.

Ramos continued, “In our first open-hour session that we hope on continuing throughout the year, they freely came to find me and ask questions related to [LGBTQIA+] topics, such [as] ways to integrate such topics into their classes. Although I wasn’t always able to answer all of the questions, it was still a good way to ask any type of question, as well as a way to collaboratively tackle the same issues.”

Although Ramos noted that major implementations have not yet been made around campus, a number of minor changes including Gender and Sexuality Alliance (G.S.A.) anniversary celebrations, Family Weekend events, and small curriculum changes altogether succeeded in creating a hospitable environment for LGBTQIA+ students and families.

Ramos said, “Last year, there was the 30th anniversary celebration of G.S.A. We were also able to get the first [LGBTQIA+] Family event, and this year was the second one. They seem like small, minor events, but it is all about creating a good visual representation for a more welcoming community. I have integrated a lot about these topics in my curriculum and the whole History department is doing so as well, so there is a lot of movement in that direction.”

Karin Ulanovsky ’20, Co-Head of G.S.A., shared similar sentiments revolving the positive effects of LGBTQIA+ support systems throughout campus. Ulanovsky found that groups such as GSA hope to create an inclusive space for all students and spread awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues.

“The G.S.A. aims to create a safe and welcoming space for any queer individual on campus and really make the queer community here feel like they’re at home and that they have a space here just as everyone else. We simply try to give increasing visible awareness of issues related to us,” said Ulanovsky.

Speaking on the culture of G.S.A., Bea Hruska ’20, Co-Head of G.S.A., expressed how she felt that it was more a space for community and sharing experience rather than a focus on activism.

“It’s just a place for people to hang out where they know that no one is going to be homophobic or transphobic… You can have discussions and have a fun time with the expectation that everybody is respectful and is just trying to be aware of other people’s identities… We’re not a super activism focused club,” said Hruska.

Although Ramos sees progress made regarding the queer community at Andover, she sees the constant struggle of the students. One big issue amongst queer students, she says, is coming out. She understands that discussing this subject still needs work.

“To be fair, I still hear from students that coming out is still very much a challenge amongst their friends and family, because it is still not accepted nationally. That itself is an issue that we, as a collective group, should work on,” said Ramos.

Ramos noted that Andover has a large LGBTQIA+ population. She believes that Andover, in its focus upon the LGBTQIA+ community, needs to change heterosexual assumptions made in the community. Her project focuses on such ideas.

Ramos said, “Compared to the national population, there are more students on this campus who identify themselves as [LGBTQIA+]. Though that is already a great sign, there is clearly more to be done in terms of curriculum and how we assume heterosexuality. Andover is good in the sense that there are specific spaces for those students, such as CAMD or the Brace Center [for Gender Studies]. But does that mean that all other spaces are not queer-friendly spaces?”