‘Justice Or Just Us?’ BC Hosts Panel On Queer Agenda

Promotional flyer for the event./Wolfe Institute via Facebook

By Jason Lin

 

   Brooklyn College’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center hosted a panel titled “Justice or Just Us?: Defining a Queer Agenda” in the Woody Tanger Auditorium on Mar. 15. Hosted by the center’s director, Kelly Spivey, the event defined and acknowledged the community’s needs with several inspirational guest speakers. 

   Speakers included Lorie Byrant, a member of the organization Southerners on New Ground; Paisley Currah, a professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at BC and the CUNY Graduate Center; Jason Wu, an attorney and community advocate; and Barbara Smith, an American lesbian feminist activist who’s the college’s current Hess Scholar-in-Residence. 

   “I wanted to bring the human element into these issues, and I felt these stories that would be invisible but also very important […],” said Attorney Wu. “We know that bad things happen; we know that some policies and laws need to be changed. But at the end of the day, we can’t forget that this is about real people with real struggles.”

   Panelists aimed to express desirable changes for the queer agenda, as well as bring attention to such a forgotten term. The term “queer” is often used to describe the political and social goals of the LGBTQ+ community. These goals can vary depending on community members’ specific needs and challenges. Still, they often focus on equal rights, access to healthcare and education, and freedom from discrimination and violence. 

   The queer agenda is rooted in a long history of activism and resistance against oppressive systems that have marginalized and harmed communities. Advocates of the queer plan believe in creating a world where people of all gender identities and sexual orientations can live freely without fear of persecution or discrimination. In acknowledging the queer agenda, the panel wanted to promote equality, acceptance, and human rights for the LGBTQ+ community. 

   “I think it important to uplift these voices, and especially in college, where it [is] about learning different types of people and learning about different ways of life […] So uplifting these voices in an academic space, it helps to bring different people together and learn about queerness,” said Fia Sanchez, a freshman at BC. 

   Stories told by Wu and Smith immediately gained the attention of everyone in the audience because the difficulty to be accepted by others as a queer person is not unheard of. Yet, once they finally cross the border of acceptance, they will be hit with another harsh reality. For example, a documentary based on a true story called “Call Her Ganda” was mentioned during the event. This film was about Jennifer Laude, a transgender Filipina woman, who was killed by a U.S. Marine named Joseph Pemberton for being trans. The charge was demoted from murder to homicide, and Pemberton was pardoned in 2020. Laude was highlighted as a demonstration of queer, feminist, racial justice, and an anti-imperialist agenda at Brooklyn College, showing the unfairness of personal status in the world.

   The event also expressed the need for more funding that could go towards conducting research on the unique health needs of the queer community and creating a safe space for queer individuals in schools and workplaces. “Imagine what we can do with 842 billion dollars to advance justice and build the kind of world we wanted,” said Wu, noting the importance of providing resources to support legal challenges to discriminatory policies and practices. Additionally, this funding could be used to support community organizations that advocate for the rights of queer individuals and promote greater acceptance and understanding of the queer experience. With such a significant investment, progress toward achieving greater justice and equality would be more attainable. 

   “I think events about like queer discourse are important to have at Brooklyn College because it shows that even though our school is not perfect, it still strives towards having a better conversation and more inclusive conversion when it comes to queer people and queer life in our school,” said Gabrielle White, a BC alumna who graduated last semester.

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