Bellevue College’s LGBTQ+ Task Force consists of a diverse group of “multi-gendered, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, inter-generational LGBTQ+ community members and allies.” Together, members “work to advocate, educate and support gender equity at Bellevue College.”
Sapan Parekh, the associate director of Service Learning & Community Engagement within the RISE Learning Institute, was once on the steering committee for the Task Force, enabling him to share multiple aspects of the organization. To foster a safe place for members of the community on campus, the Task Force acts as a medium for “staff and students to connect and build relationships,” which they reinforce through quarterly Task Force Meetings. In addition to creating an inclusive environment, “we grow and support allyship, knowing that we cannot do this work alone. Together, we promote celebratory events, like Pride, play active roles in public displays of support, […] and push for policies that are more inclusive, such as with our work on the gender-neutral bathrooms across campus and how gender appears in data that the college collects.”
The beliefs of the Task Force align with “highlighting intersectionality and acting in solidarity with others who are traditionally repressed, oppressed and marginalized.” Collectively, the force aims to accomplish the following goals:
- Foster and promote a safe community for all LGBTQ+ students and employees at Bellevue College
- Encourage and lead efforts to enact policies, provide education and highlight inequities in order to support our queer community as well as other repressed and oppressed identities
- Plan events such as Pride and Trans Day of Visibility
- Represent queer and intersectional identities in governance
- Collaborate with the student-run LGBTQ+ Resource Center
Parekh shared that he is most proud of the 2019 Pride Festival that the Force planned. There, individuals “celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and commemorated the 3rd Anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.” He shared that, even through the 98-degree heat, “hundreds of students, employees and community members joined the day-long celebration.” Roughly 70 tables were set up that represented “non-profit agencies, advocacy groups, government, faith-based agencies, healthcare organizations and Bellevue College programs.” Attendees had the opportunity to get HIV and Hepatitis testing, hear from Bellevue’s then Deputy Mayor (now current Mayor) Lynne Robinson, write cards to LGBTQ+ youth in juvenile detention, view a ballet performance from the City Opera Ballet, hear poetry from fellow students and listen to a keynote poetry presentation from Anastacia-Reneé. “The event took a lot of work, but the result was incredible,” Parekh stated. Look forward to this year’s Pride event, which will take place in June. Until then, there are potential plans in place for Trans Day of Visibility on Mar. 31.
The Task Force was also involved in other well-received events and actions such as bringing the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ (NASPA) “Power of One Conference” to Bellevue College in 2017 and organizing the Rainbow Crosswalks on campus. Parekh disclosed plans for a second crosswalk to be placed sometime in mid-2023. “Ours are the only official rainbow crosswalks in the region outside Capitol Hill in Seattle (as per my knowledge). Those took a lot of time to make happen, and they demonstrate our college’s commitment to not only our LGBTQ+ community but to all underrepresented and traditionally marginalized communities.”
If you are interested in joining the Task Force, reach out to Justin Sanders (Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Molly Jae Vaughan (Molly.email@example.com), who will then add you to the email list. “Once they [students] join the Task Force, they would get invited to the quarterly meeting and can also help out with the various subgroups, such as around Pride month or policy changes,” Parekh shared.