During the COVID-19 pandemic, students were temporarily placed under stay-at-home orders by the government, which stopped college activities, including clubs that promoted socializing.
For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, b
eing stuck at home with blood-related family members who are intolerant of their queer child’s gender identity and sexuality had the potential to jeopardize their self-esteem, safety and mental health.
In an effort to promote self-discovery and self-acceptance, Long Beach State’s Queers and Allies (Q&A) club is taking measures to cultivate a space to explore one’s identity and establish a home away from home.
Ashton Ramos, a member of the Q&A club, said they are often misunderstood in their family regarding their pronouns.
Despite the support of their siblings, Ramos said that their parents did not understand what the “whole gender thing” meant.
“Frankly, I was raised thinking it was a sin,” Ramos said. “So, when I realized that it wasn’t and that there’s nothing wrong with me, that meant a lot to me.”
A rift between queer youth and their older families is almost expected, given how strict religious beliefs contribute to an intolerant household.
Recognizing the bias older families hold, most queer youth resort to half-truths about their queerness to maintain a semblance of kinship.
What started with virtual meetups comprised of Discord voice chats and online gaming on Jackbox Games soon morphed into a bond rooted in complete acceptance of each member’s identity.
Alfredo Heredia, who is the head of the Q&A club, along with vice president Sky Na, said they have fostered people in their home, creating a “safe community space” for people like Ramos—a place where they can be themselves.
Drew Love, a member of the Q&A club, said they tolerate people misgendering their pronouns to avoid the obligation of re-asserting their gender.
“This group of people, kind of being the only group of people where I can show up, and I can be called by my name and refer to the way that I want and to have that group of people who understand who I am,” Love said referring to Q&A. “I feel like I don’t have to hide that aspect of myself, is a really big part of it.”
Although the club only met for the first time one year ago, members said that the time spent together resembles that of a family, with lots of inside jokes and cooking for each other.
Na, the club’s vice president, said they hope to project an image onto others that they feel is accurate to their authentic self-identity without feeling the need “to water yourself down to present to others.”
People interested in joining the club can make connections with other members through attending future events such as book swaps or small picnic gatherings.
Noah Koenig, a member of the club, said he has enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with other queer people and create an accepting, welcoming dynamic.
“You don’t need to fake any part of yourself or hide who you are, you can just be naturally yourself around people in this club,” Koenig said. “It does almost start to feel like family when you hang out around people, spend time together and when you have this connection of being queer, it’s just really meaningful.”