June 2017 Features

Living as LBGTQIA+

This spring’s conference on living as LGBTQIA+ brought together current students and members of the College’s LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group for a series of workshops on wide-ranging topics. Participants discussed coming out to family and friends, entering the workforce, choosing where to live, parenting, and sharing a then-and-now comparison of on-campus LGBTQIA+ life. Below, the Bulletin shares reflections on the event from a handful of the 50- some participants, including conference organizers Emily Engler ’01, Susan Messina ’86, M.S.S. ’91, M.L.S.P. ’92, and Erica Seaborne ’09.

I did the math. If there had been a program like this when I was 
a senior in 1986, a participating alumna my age today would have been born in 1934 and graduated in 1955. Would I have even seen her experience as relevant? I will never know. It was a far different environment than today; the Alumnae Association certainly was not hosting LGBTQ-related events in the mid-1980s. I am delighted that today, the campus is actively engaging with questions of 
sexuality and gender identity. I left heartened by the honesty of 
the panelists, interest of the students, and commitment of the Alumnae Association to serve LGBTQIA+ students and alums.
— Susan Messina ’86, MSS ’91, MLSP ’92

I never fail to be incredibly humbled by the amazing community I am a part of as a Mawrter, and this conference showed me the wonders of that community again and again. As an organizer, I was so appreciative of the openness and honesty each panelist brought to the day and was brought to tears more than once. But I think what I will remember most 20 years from now is the pure joy found when alumnae/i and current students come together in one space to share our stories, our knowledge, and our truth.
— Erica Seaborne ’09

I was a panelist at the conference, but I learned so much from the other panelists on my own panel and on the other panels. Everyone was willing to be open about their experiences, and it was heartening at times and heartbreaking at others. There were tough stories of discrimination and family abandonment, but the pervading message was that people were able to find community and make family in new ways and that the group that gathered for the conference was one more way to build community. My very favorite moment, though, was finding out that one of the panelists had actually driven the Blue Bus as her student job, and the common response of awe from the whole room.
— Emily Engler ’01

While times have changed, there are still distinct issues faced 
by LGBTQ individuals. Being able to share in experiences like 
coming out, finding community, and navigating societal and 
familiar pressures was an incredible experience. As a younger alum, I was happy to share my experience with current students, but I was also really interested in hearing from older alums. I 
think our panel group was lucky to have been intimate and 
candid both in answers and in audience questions. I feel really lucky to have participated in something that strengthens the 
Bryn Mawr community both on and off campus.
— Lauren Buckheit ’15

It is a well-known fact that graduates of Bryn Mawr go on to do great things with their lives, but what they do after achieving that success is what differentiates them from the thousands of graduates from other colleges across the nation. Mawrters celebrate their success by helping others to succeed. I have never met a Mawrter who didn’t support my dreams and aspirations. So many Mawrters have helped me to affirm the person that I am today and inspire the person that I want to become tomorrow. This conference was no exception. When I came out, I was told that being part of the LGBT community would prevent me from achieving my goals, but these amazing alums proved them wrong. The panelists were so open and honest, and that made me feel comfortable asking the hard questions. I feel more ready than ever 
to conquer the world, and I owe so much of that confidence to Bryn Mawr students, both past and present, that have always accepted me, just the way I am.
— Abby Hoyt ’17