June is a month where members of the LGBTQ+ community come together to spread awareness and celebrate Pride with a sense of community, whether that’s being at home, their workplace or throughout their college experience.
Michigan State University is home to many queer student organizations. The Alliance of Queer and Ally Students, or Alliance, is the oldest, tracing its foundation back to the early 1970s.
Arts and humanities senior Angela Demas, vice chair of Alliance, said there’s been more LGBTQ+ student organizations established over the years and it’s The Alliance’s goal to collaborate with fellow students to welcome them to their organization.
Demas said Alliance was supportive of members exploring more about their identity and learning more about intersectionality. She became vice chair during her second semester of junior year.
“Alliance was one of the first organizations I joined,” Demas said. “I was very excited to help out and just try to support the LGBTQ+ community.”
Demas said listening to their members and other organizations about how to best support each other is important so they can improve their service to the LGBTQ+ community. She said working with Alliance chair Blessing Jackson to create a safe and inclusive environment is enjoyable.
Criminal Justice senior Blessing Jackson said that along with Alliance, the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, or GSCC, they began to embrace themselves. They added being a part of Alliance improved their leadership skills.
“I didn’t know how to lead until I was introduced to Alliance and revamping it because Alliance was a doormat for a few years before,” Jackson said.
Alliance is more than a community that only serves queer students. They noted the organization also supports faculty and staff and educates students who want to learn more about their community, guiding them to advocate for policies and inclusion, Jackson said.
“When we talk about diversity and inclusion … most people think about sex and sexuality and they forget the key thing, which is gender,” Jackson said. “They also forget that Alliance is about policy.”
Alliance is a CORES and COPS group, which means the organization receives funding from the Office of Cultural & Academic Transitions, or OCAT. Jackson said Alliance uses its platform to speak for queer organizations that don't get acknowledged as often.
“We have the power to speak with organizations who don’t get funding, who try to come up with different policies and advocate,” Jackson said. “That’s when Alliance comes in and say, ‘Hey, we have the budget so we can start sponsoring (organizations).’”
Alliance’s goal is to have TransAction MSU become accompanied with CORES and COPS in the upcoming school year according to Jackson. TransAction was founded in 2010 and is an organization supporting transgender, non-binary and allied students.
International relations and comparative politics sophomore Lyra Opalikhin is a member of Transcend MSU, a campus caucus supporting transgender students.
Opalikhin said maintaining membership in queer organizations is a challenge because of the lack of advertising for organizations, such as PRISM. She said posting events around campus will help reach incoming students who may want to join their organization.
“I think one important thing I want to focus on going forward is advertising our organization,” Opalikhin said. “To make ... any general members who are potentially interested in joining the club know more about it.”
Opalikhin said having a strong foundation is important regardless of affiliation. She said a piece of advice she would give incoming students is to find an organization that welcomes them.
Jackson said that if everyone, including non-queer student organizations, advocated for queer students, the student body would be united.
“I really hope in the next three to five years MSU can actually understand the significance of diversity,” Jackson said. “Diversity brings unity and it’s going to build our inclusion.”