Stories of courage, strength shared at LGBTQ+ teach-in

October 16, 2023

People sit in the Piazza to watch presentations at the LGBTQ teach-in where a speaker stands on the stage.

Six members of the university community shared messages of pride and strength in the Piazza at Quinnipiac’s third annual LGBTQ+ History Month Teach-In.

Attendees were invited to ask questions and share what they would like to contribute to the conversation on October 11, National Coming Out Day.

The Quinnipiac community’s support of LGBTQ+ individuals is an important component of the university’s values of diversity, inclusivity and belonging.

Quinnipiac’s Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Wayne Gersie introduced the program’s insightful speakers.

Morning presenters included Director of Community Engagement Vincent Contrucci on “LGBTQ leaders pre-Stonewall to 1975." Nursing student Jenny Mirsky spoke on “Moving from Shame to Joy – A Transgender Journey."

Professor of Sociology, Grace Yukich, discussed “The Trouble with Passing in a Time of Crisis.”

Yukich touched on several crisis points facing the LGBTQ+ community, such as current issues involving public-school LGBTQ+ education and curricular laws. She shared Human Rights Campaign 2023 statistics, year to date, showing record numbers regarding anti-LGBTQ+ state legislative activity. They include 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced, over 220 bills targeting trans and non-binary people and 70 anti-LGBTQ+ laws enacted.

During this time of crisis, passing as straight or cisgender, whether intentional or unintentional, comes with both privileges and pitfalls, Yukich said. Some of the advantages can be social acceptance, legal and financial benefits and physical safety. Some of the costs can be feelings of invisibility or inauthenticity, loss of identity, lack of community and feelings of complacency or even complicity.

In sharing her journey as a transgender woman, Mirsky discussed moving through years of guilt, denial, and shame, to the acceptance, pride, love and joy she feels today.

“I feel great," said Mirsky. "I haven’t felt better in my whole life. It’s truly beautiful, what has happened to my mind and I’ll be forever grateful for allowing myself to do that. And I’ll be forever grateful to everyone: cis people, trans people, just the general public, society in America, society at large, for starting to accept trans people and fight for trans people."

Early afternoon presenters included Quinnipiac Public Services Librarian Robert Young on “Pride of Place: A Look Back at the History of the LGBTQ+ Community at Quinnipiac.” The event also included a representative display of fiction, non-fiction and graphic novels about the LGBTQ+ community available at the Arnold Bernhard Library.

Dean of the School of Nursing Larry Slater discussed “Navigating LGBTQ+ Identity in Health and Health Education.” Professor of Psychology and Women's & Gender Studies William Jellison spoke on “Beyond Queer: Expanding our Understanding of Sex, Gender and Sexuality.”

In terms of acceptance and inclusion among today’s society and culture, research shows that attitudes toward LGBTQ+ individuals have become more accepting for individuals who fit into heteronormative roles; to the exclusion of people who don’t fit those expectations, Jellison said.

Jellison also referenced Slater’s discussion on the need to strengthen the education of future health professionals to incorporate a greater understanding of providing healthcare to LGBTQ+ individuals.

“I have to say I’m glad my colleague is in the room,” said Jellison of Slater. “I’m so proud of Quinnipiac, because from what I understand we do far more here than what is done nationally. It’s great to be at a school that I know is on the edge of trying to increase LGBTQ+ competence among healthcare providers."

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