LGBTQIA+ at Salem State University

Over the last few decades our society has become more open and understanding towards the LGBTQ+ community than it once was. As a result, many institutions, including Salem State University, have taken the initiative to make a more welcoming and safe environment for these students and their allies. Here are just a few examples of how Salem State has progressively made a difference to make the university as gender inclusive as possible.

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From the Archives

This picture is from the 1976 Salem State College yearbook “The Clipper”. It was a statement about a weekly meeting with various agendas and promotional activities. Previously, two years earlier, a lesbian group meeting began on campus presented by the women’s center. They took out a small ad in the school’s newspaper in 1974. Picture not included. Unfortunately, the campus archives do not include many articles or artifacts about on campus events.

The weekly news column “Some of your Best Friends” was written in the school’s newspaper by a gay, then Salem State College professor named David Newton. Within the news column, he challenged the way of life and culture. While his main focus reflected gay themes, he also discussed politics, activism and even pop culture.

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Residence Life

In Spring 2013, the Department of Residence Life began to accept applications for Gender Inclusive Housing for the Fall 2014 semester. Gender Inclusive Housing is offered in Viking Hall (sophomore suite style), Atlantic Hall and Bates Complex (Junior/Senior Apartment Style). Daymyen Layne, the Assistant Director of Residence Life, Housing Operations said “Gender Inclusive Housing was created as a way for Residence Life to provide a safe-space to gender non-conforming students, regardless of how they identify.” For those buildings that do not offer Gender Inclusive Housing (Peabody Hall, Bowditch Hall, and Marsh Hall) the professional and student staff of those buildings are accommodating. Layne said “Residence Life attempts to train our student staff to, not only, be a resource for students on campus, but to also connect students with resources across campus.” Residence Life goes above and beyond to make all residential students feel welcomed.

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Salem State University’s 18th Annual Pride Dinner

In the mid 1990s, college and university campuses across the country began to realize that their LGBTQ+ population felt as if they were not being included or viewed in the same way that the heterosexual community at their schools were, causing tensions across their campuses, specifically surrounding their graduation ceremonies. Because of this national issue, the tradition of having a Pride Dinner to represent students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community began in the mid 1990s. This pride dinner was created for those graduating students who did not feel as if they would be accepted or respected if they were out openly and still wanted to attend graduation. Salem State University notice, being an extremely diverse and accepting university, adopted the idea of including a pride dinner into the academic year in 1999 in order to recognize and celebrate students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. The Pride Dinner also awards the Dr. Patricia A. Gozemba Award to a Salem State University community member who has worked as a positive influence within the LGBTQ+ community to recognize the importance that the staff and community surrounding Salem State University and its diverse population. With the implementation of this pride dinner, students and staff who identify as or who have played a part in the LGBTQ+ community not only feel included within the campus of Salem State University but feel celebrated and accepted, creating a climate on campus that is a much more open and safe space.

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National Coming Out Week

Throughout history, it is evident that there has not always been support for the LGBTQ+ community all over the United States, which is why National Coming Out Day was introduced in 1988. The date of National Coming Out Day is October 11th which is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. After National Coming Out Day was established, universities and colleges across the country started to include a National Coming Out Week in October to commemorate this occasion. In October of 2014, Salem State University hosted their first NCOW and it included several different events such as a SafeZone 101 trainings (how to support the LGBTQ+ community and how to be an ally), people sharing their personal coming out stories, as well as an open forum in which students could voice their opinions and identities around campus. Through the implementation of NCOW, not only has Salem State University been able to make positive additions to the campus (such as the raising of a rainbow flag on North Campus) but also promote an accepting campus climate throughout the years because of the information and resources that it has provided for the students of the university.

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Trans Day of Remembrance

The year of 2016 was the deadliest year on record for transgender individuals to date in the United States with a total of over 27 deaths reported. This disturbingly high number resulted in certain colleges and universities taking notice, and wanting to do something about it. Since this statistic was found, Salem State University decided to host its first Trans Day of Remembrance in 2016. This ceremony was meant to bring the campus together in order to celebrate the lives of the transgender individuals who were killed for being who they were. The quad on North Campus became a visual memorial filled with photographs and names of over 90 transgender individuals. A member of the spiritual life on campus led the community through a ceremony that honored these lives that were represented in the memorial while candles were lit and a prayer was read. The powerful message that this vigil portrayed was meant to visually show the massive number of lives that were lost due to the way they chose to identify themselves, and hopefully make an impact on the climate of Salem State University surrounding the acceptance and/or discrimination of transgender individuals.

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Raspberry Swirl

The Alliance has been putting on a drag show called Raspberry Swirl for 16 years! Raspberry Swirl is a safe space for students to practice gender expression and have fun. While students were the headliners in earlier years, The Alliance now brings a famous drag performer from RuPaul’s Drag Race each year to strut their stuff. Here’s a vintage advertisement for Salem State’s 2nd annual Raspberry Swirl.

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Preferred Name Policy 

In 2016, Salem State Alliance students created social change by lobbying for the “preferred name policy” at SSU. The policy creates access for transgender and nonconforming students to have their preferred name listed on their Clipper Card. Students will also have their preferred name listed in Navigator, and in residence halls. The photo above is a group of student activists after a successful meeting with the Clipper Card office!

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GLSEN Day of Silence 

Beginning with just a small, yet dedicated group of Massachusetts teachers, who came together to improve the educational system’s perspective on the LGBTQIA+ community, established their organization GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”) in 1990. Their goal was to create an awareness of the frequent bullying and discrimination that was occurring within the educational systems across the country and to ensure the safety of the LGBTQ students. Every year on April 21st there is “a student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, including Salem State University, that brings awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ+ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools”. This event is known as the Day of Silence, and is used to inspire the educational systems to address any anti-LGBTQ+ behaviors. Salem State University contributed in the Day of Silence and showed their support across the campus, even our dining services took part in the event!

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