Virtual GSA Weekend: Community and Trust

The annual Gender and Sexuality Alliance (G.S.A.) weekend took place virtually this year on October 15. Led by Niya Harris ’21 and co-advised by Dr. David Farnsworth and Corrie Martin, Instructor in English, the G.S.A. held two events: the Coming Out Panel as well as a student and faculty mixer. These events gave students and faculty a space to share personal experiences, meet new people, and build community, according to Martin.

This year, the Coming Out Panel was held over Zoom. As a handful of students and faculty members shared their own personal experiences of coming out, Martin emphasized the importance of trust while listening to the speakers. 

“There’s also a certain level of trust you have to build when you’re telling those stories because many of these stories are still raw, emotional, intimate, and personal, and as one person said, as this came up many times, coming out is never just a one and done process,” said Martin.

The students and faculty found ways to learn from the speakers and relate to their stories of coming out, according to Martin.

“The purpose of these events is to validate and learn from the incredible diversity of stories and experiences that people have had coming out to themselves and their families and friends and communities. [We share] how different [our] experiences are and… touch [the] points we have in terms of the struggle,” said Martin.

Once the panel ended, the G.S.A.’s leaders broke the attendees into breakout rooms over Zoom, where faculty and students continued to discuss the panel, answer various prompts, and share more personal stories. Each breakout room held around eight people, with a mix of upperclassmen, underclassmen, and faculty members.

“We had some prompts that ranged from the silly to the profound and we really got to know each other and where we came from. But the best part was having the students talking to each other about the questions they had, about the campus life, and their own experiences. We had a mix of Seniors, Uppers, and Lowers, so they were able to give each other advice and talk about their experiences and that was wonderful,” said Martin.

According to Mary Muromcew ’22, a board member of G.S.A., the weekend was enjoyable despite the circumstances necessitating the shift to a virtual platform. To Muromcew, seeing her peers share their coming out stories over Zoom during the queer student and faculty mixer gave her a new perspective on the ties between LGBTQ+ members of the community. 

“There was something weirdly a little more intimate about Zoom — some faculty had their children on the call while they were making dinner, some people were in their rooms at home. I was really struck by the spirit of Andover’s queer community and how much love we bring when we are in a shared space — even when it is online,” said Muromcew.

According to Martin, the conversations shared during the weekend continued an more than 30 year-long tradition on campus of giving visibility to Andover’s queer community. With its first year online complete, the events continue to prompt thought and conversation around the queer experience on and off campus.

“This was our first big event marking G.S.A. Weekend… [It’s] the first year we’ve ever done it virtually and I think it has been a big success,” said Martin.