LGBTQ community unites for post-election processing event
On the one-week anniversary of the presidential election, the Office of the Dean of Students, the LGBTQ Program Coordinator Rebekah Harless-Balmer and the Center for Counseling & Student Development called a gathering for a processing and healing session.
As the LGBTQ program coordinator, Harless-Balmer’s position at the university is to offer support, advocacy, and resources to LGBTQ students. She said she felt it was important to offer a healing space for them after the election.
“I realized a space needed to be created for students to come together to share those emotions and feelings in a space that was not for political debate or diversity dialogue because sometimes people in marginalized populations just need a space to be within themselves, their group, and to share raw feelings and emotions,” Harless-Balmer says.
For those students who have been struggling the past week, particularly because of the rise in hate crimes and hate speech that have surfaced since Donald Trump’s election, this was an opportunity for students to come together and share some of their concerns.
Among the students at the processing session, Stella Castor, a freshman sociology and women’s studies major, was one of the first to speak out. She recaps her thoughts and experiences of the election between election night and the following Wednesday morning.
“When I saw about 266 electoral votes [for Trump] at about 2:30 am on Wednesday morning, I was like, ‘I need to go to bed because this is obviously not real,’” Castor says. “And then I wake up and say, ‘This is real, that’s a problem.’”
Castor says she initially thought of all the bigotry that had been directed lately at other marginalized groups such as Latino people, other people of color, and immigrants, but quickly remembered that the Vice President-elect is not a supporter of the LGBTQ community. At one point, she said he supported the idea of using federal funding to treat people that are looking to change their sexual behavior through conversion therapy.
Castor says she “felt like she was suddenly back to square one again” when it came to LGBTQ rights. Castor emphasized the importance of unity and vocalization to not only make it through a Trump presidency, but to also to combat the intensified hate that was stirred up from the election.
“It’s important for us as a community to be able to process things as a whole and say ‘you feel this way, I feel this way, but we can work together to not feel the negative parts and feel the positive ones more,” Castor says.
Ana Vega Ambriz, a junior anthropology and Latin American studies major, says she shared some of the initial reactions of shock to the election results, but went quickly into the following stages of grief, where she’s remained throughout the week.
“I was devastated, heartbroken, and very betrayed,” Vega Ambriz says. “I felt betrayed by the system.”
Vega Ambriz said seeing the president-elect’s cabinet selections not only frightened her, but undid the progress she had made in moving towards acceptance of the situation. Despite this fear, she echoed Castor on building a stronger sense of unity in the community that will be difficult, but ultimately rewarding for everyone.
“It’s going to be hard on the road ahead, but together we can make it through it,” Vega Ambriz says. “Positive dialogues with each other, within the community; that’s what’s going to make change happen.”