Spotlight on Mount Holyoke's lesbian and bisexual support system
by Christina Caron '00
In light of a petition, submitted last Friday, which calls for allocating space for the lesbian/bisexual support organizations on campus, the concerns of the LBA, Spectrum and SYSTA have recently been brought to the attention of the Mount Holyoke community. Though most students have heard about the LBA (Lesbian Bisexual Alliance), Spectrum and SYSTA, what exactly do these organizations do individually, how do they work together, and for what specific purpose?
According to Lynn L'Archeveque '97, LBA treasurer, "The LBA is not only a social group that sponsors dances, but one that is committed to educating the campus on various issues. The LBA sponsors a Coming Out Support Group that meets once a week for support dealing with issues surrounding the coming out process. This year, we hope to bring many speakers to campus, as well as sponsoring the ever-popular dances, including the Cotillion in the spring."
Said one member, "The LBA is important to me because their simple presence on campus is almost comforting."
Spectrum, according to co-chair Josie Gold '97, is a social support group for women of all sexual orientations, including questioning women, that combats homophobia, bi-phobia and trans-phobia through discussion, political action and education. To achieve their goals, Spectrum utilizes a meeting format which covers business in the first part of the meeting and includes an open discussion during the second half. About 10-15 students regularly attend meetings yet, like the LBA, the Spectrum mailing list of interested students is significantly large.
Spectrum additionally works with the LBA to hold dorm workshops on homophobia and homosexuality and also invites discussion panels to Mount Holyoke. One panel, to be held in mid-April, is the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) panel, which will educate allies of gay, lesbian and bisexual students. In addition, a panel discussing transgender issues will be held on April 2, 1997.
In keeping with their goals to support and encourage campus communication, Spectrum has organized and published a new literary magazine. L'Archeveque adds, "The new 'zine, called Slip of the Tongue, has already had one issue published. The 'zine compiles poetry, stories, etc. from students and faculty. The first issue contained an article by Jean Grossholtz, as well as by an alumna and various student contributions."
As opposed to the LBA or Spectrum, SYSTA is an informal, highly confidential support group for lesbian, bisexual and questioning women of color. By holding small group sessions once a week, SYSTA seeks to provide these students with support as well as with a safe place to share their experiences and feelings. One member commented, "SYSTA is much more personal and really is a safe place that I can go and just talk about anything. And [the members] really care."
Last Friday's petition seeks to help these organizations meet their many goals and to forge stronger links between them. The current consensus seems to be that the deserved space will act to further unify the LBA, Spectrum, and SYSTA in addition to assisting the LBA and Spectrum in building a relationship with the faculty and staff.
Radley Emes '00 explained that the proposal asked for "a resource center with various types of media such as videos, pamphlets, and books" as well as a social space which could hold 75 people. This social space would be used for lecturers and meetings - such as the pending conference to be held by the Lesbian and Bisexual Alumnae Network - and the various panels.