“What brings people together more than food?” asks Thelathia “Nikki” Young, Haverford’s vice president for institutional equity and access.
That question was the focus of the Sept. 27 barbeque at QHouse, the residential and community space for students invested in the legacies, liberation, and celebration of LGBTQIA+ communities. More than 60 students, faculty, and staff gathered on the QHouse lawn adjacent to Haverford’s College Avenue entrance. On a pleasant late-September evening, they enjoyed catered food, games, and, most importantly, each other’s company at the inaugural event, co-hosted by the Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) office and the Center for Gender Resources and Sexuality Equity (GRASE).
“We want to create a community for our LGBTQIA+ community members across the college to let them know that our campus is open and inclusive to all,” Young says. “We want to start a new tradition and make this an annual event.”
Organized by Young and Sayeeda Rashid, assistant vice president of institutional equity and access and former GRASE Center director, the barbecue is intended to be an opportunity for the entire Haverford community — students, faculty, staff, and administrators — to meet each other and make face-to-face connections.
“It’s important for queer and trans folks to be able to connect in a space where people recognize others as part of the community and become a support system during the year,” Rashid says.
“Building community is sharing food together. It’s looking someone in the eye and saying hi,” adds Katie (kt) Tedesco, who joined Haverford in August as the GRASE Center’s new director.
Although QHouse was founded six years ago, restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic diminished its occupancy. This year, however, it has welcomed a bustling full house of students. Young and Rashid both note that it was the optimal space to launch the first of the 2023 academic year’s LGBTQIA+-centered events on campus so the broader college community could learn more about QHouse and its mission.
Rashid explains, “Q House has been through several transitions, and now that QHouse is fully running, we asked ourselves how we could bring that culture of building communities back.”
As Haverford celebrates LGBTQIA+ History Month throughout October, Tedesco says she anticipates the return of cherished events over the year, including Lavender Graduation and the Drag Ball. New ideas may follow, but she’s focused on getting better acquainted with Haverford’s community for now.
“It’s really important to take the time to build relationships on campus before trying to insert my own ideas,” Tedesco says. “A huge goal that l have this year is to build connections between GRASE and student clubs.”
Among the returning events and considerations of new celebrations, Young also announced the creation of an affinity group for LGBTQIA+ students and staff and a new student advisory committee at the barbecue.
“It’s important for me to meet the current LGBTQIA+ community since we’ve been so underrepresented,” says first-year student and one of the GRASE Center’s new student associates Caroline Yao, who attended the barbecue, about the critical nature of gatherings that bolster feelings of belonging. “It’s important to host these events so that staff and students can eat and talk and get to know each other.”
Upcoming LGBTQIA+ Heritage Month events include an Oct. 26 Thrive Thursday lunch and learn with Celena Morrison, the first openly trans person appointed to lead a government office in Philadelphia, and a screening of Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America in the VCAM screening room Oct. 27.