A student walking into the theater located squarely in the N building on Sept. 26 would have been greeted to a warmly lit room filled with the booming voices of women singing songs of power, independence and pure human emotion. This was Sistah Sinema: Queer Women of Color Cinema Meet and Greet, an event based around educating Bellevue College on the rarely looked at interplay amongst this minority within a minority. Asimina Kouroupis, attendee, was glad that “They’re focusing on intersectionalities rather than just focusing solely on race or sexuality. If you just focus on one, then you’re ignoring most people.”
Having arrived, event-goers would have been, without fail, greeted by the bubbly Ron Rodriguez, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Resource Center. Conversation surrounds them, murmuring and soft but friendly. Keara Brewer, student and attendee, was enthralled, saying that, “It’s fantastic that our school is opening up more space for LGBTQ students.” Taking a more serious tone, she adds, “In my ideal world, every student from every background would be forced to at least look at the reality of every LGBTQ student. If we can’t even look at it, then what do we have?” A student hearing this might smile and nod, sipping on the provided coffee.
Closer to 12 p.m., the theater’s audience swelled two-, three-, four-fold. The murmuring grew louder, the pastries disappeared. A few flashes on the screen and the movie is cued. Before it has a chance to begin, a speaker welcomes to the stage members of resource groups Lambert House and the Northwest Network. The jovial mood that coursed through the room was dampened, talk grew quiet and somber as the spokespeople for these groups listed out a few troubling facts about life for members of the LGBTQ community.
With the friendly atmosphere, it was easy to forget the seriousness of the event at hand, which has convened, not only to highlight the general problems of bias and prejudice that members of the LGBTQ community face, but more specifically to focus on the issues that pervade the lives of people of color within the LGBTQ community. Youth of color that identify as LGBTQ are disproportionately the ones who find themselves homeless as a result of coming out. This is due to a large array of factors, but the most statistically common reasoning is the strongly orthodox religious culture found more commonly in those demographics.
After wrapping up the description of their programs and volunteer opportunities there were a few waves of applause, and the spokespeople were seated and the films began.
The first video, “Gender Freaks,” is a short film set in a high school with a large assortment of people diversely sexually arranged. Obvious tensions build between a cast of young adults trying to find their place in the world, centering around a Caucasian girl who proclaims to the world that she’s an unbiased heterosexual claiming, “Some of my best friends are lesbian!” The gender pronoun-free youth of color challenge the limits of her acceptance. It’s raw, it’s energetic and it’s so sincere that it hurts to watch. Is it corny to end such a sincere movie with a “High School Musical”-esque song? Of course not. The song rocked, the ending was heartfelt.
The second film, “Tracks,” is a solemn tale of two African American youths, striking out against bigoted dogma to find love in each other. The two women in the movie are quite clearly different. One is athletic, spirited, wild, the other is quieter, artistic, inspiring and full of pain. Their families cannot accept them, they can barely accept themselves, but they find strength in each other. Both films are about growth and individuality, about making your own tracks in the world.
There is unquestionable conflict in the lives of all LGBTQ members, especially those of color. But as much as this event focused on the issues and suffering that plagues these people, it was just as much an event about pride, about companionship, about getting over biases.Resources available for members of the LGBTQ community, as well as those who do not identify as such but wish to volunteer their services for those who do, include, but are in no way limited to: the LGBTQ Resource Center, Lambert House and the Northwest Network.
The LGBTQ Resource Center can be found within Student Programs, C212. Inside, there are different resources of pamphlets, safe sex materials, books, movies and more.
Lambert House, which hosts dances, hikes, martial arts workshops, writing workshops and anything else you might propose and are willing to help lead. They provide dinners during the week for the homeless, as well as dining opportunities to allow meet groups. Volunteer opportunities are “nearly unlimited,” according to their spokesperson.
The Northwest Network, an advocacy and counseling group that allow teens to communicate with others who can emphasize, as well as guiding them through difficult times and decisions.
For more information on volunteering at Northwest Network or Lambert House, please visit http://www.nwnetwork.org or http://www.lamberthouse.org, respectively.