HEAD COPY EDITOR
The view from the top of the Science & Learning Center is breathtaking on spring evenings, making it the perfect location for a hang-out, celebration, or even a mixer. Last Thursday, April 25, Whittier College’s own Transgender, Other-Identified, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Allies for Diversity (TOBGLAD) put together a mixer to initiate their proposed project: an LGBTQIA+ Center here in Whittier, an idea that came from Whittier Alumni, including Megan Hobza.
While the project is still in the very early stages of planning, there has been a positive response from all so far. After all, the nearest LGBTQIA+ Centers are in Long Beach (24 miles away) and Los Angeles (28 miles away), which is a problem for all people, but especially queer teens in the area who may not have the support or resources at home that they need.
“It went better than I had hoped for. It was really fun, which I expected, but the camaraderie of all these generations of people coming from all different parts of greater Whittier showing up on this campus and just being willing to talk to each other was a little beyond what I expected,” said alumna Hobza, Class of 1993, who is acting as an advisor and alumni aide to TOBGLAD. “So many high schools students came today. That really surprised and excited me.”
At the mixer, students from TOBGLAD, other Poets, alumni, and even local community members came together to raise awareness and funds for the center. While students were able to enter for free, there was a suggested donation of $10, which will go towards The Center’s initiative. Attendees were also given a raffle ticket just for giving their email to the organization and could purchase more for just a dollar each, which gave a little more incentive to donate to the cause.
According to Hobza, they were able to raise $251 and had an overall attendance of about 50 people. “For me, having a bridge to the larger community is extremely important because there is strength in community and solidarity,” said President of TOBGLAD second-year Cole DiGrazia. “With our current political climate, many LGBTQ[IA]+ rights are being threatened, and its important for us to show that Whittier as a college and the larger Whittier community will stand together and thrive despite these obstacles.”
Several round tables — covered in queer-themed stickers and rainbow bubbles — were set up so that people could sit and socialize with others easily, and they were encouraged to partake in some of the vegan sliders, donuts, and other such snacks. A photo wall took up one section of the room, complete with silly hats, boas, and rainbow cut-outs. Everyone was encouraged to post photos and updates of the night onto social media using the tag: #WhittierLGBTQ+. An attached room served as the dance area, complete with projected music videos and a rainbow disco ball.
“The Mixer . . . [was] important because it is a way of bringing the entire community together, to spread awareness, raise funds, and discover the needs of our community for the future center,” said DiGrazia. Perhaps most important was the conversation wall, which took up the largest wall available. On the seemingly never-ending whiteboard, members of TOBGLAD had written several ideas of what the Center should offer. Attendees were encouraged to interact with the wall by adding their own ideas using the many available dry erase markers or up-voting the written ideas with Post-it notes.
Moving forward, those at TOBGLAD plan to incorporate the ideas from the wall into their official proposals. “People participated in the whiteboard conversation, which I wasn’t sure if they would, but the whiteboard is full, and people up-voted each other’s ideas,” said Hobza. She hopes for the Center to have everything from the whiteboard list. “Ultimately, the best thing would be if the folks in this group feel ownership of [the Center], feel empowered to take leadership and make their own decisions with it, so that we are building a lot of leaders in the City of Whittier for LGBTQIA+ causes and more.”
The event brought together people from the College and from the community of Whittier, which seemed to be a big deal for those in charge. There was worry that perhaps the city of Whittier is not ready for an LGBTQIA+ Center so close to home, but the number of high school students, parents, teachers, and other supportive members of the community at the mixer seemed to prove otherwise.
According to Hobza, they will be trying to work with Whittier Pride and other such groups so that the College students do not bear the weight of the movement alone. Whittier Pride meetings are every other Wednesday at the Y.M.C.A. in Uptown. Also, Uptown restaurants Modern Shaman and Veggie y Que have offered to host fundraisers for the Center, so be sure to watch for those announcements! If you want to be part of planning, TOBGLAD meets at 5 p.m. every Thursday in Diehl 118.