LGBTQ group respects identities and sexualities

This fall, a not-so-new organization made its debut on Greene Street at the Student Organization Fair. IRIS, formerly known as BGLSA, is making changes not just within the organization, but also all over campus.

“Every year I have been on the [BGLSA] board, we have discussed changing the name,” IRIS President and fourth-year political science student Devon Sherrell said. “We want the name to be more inclusive to our trans members, our intersex members, our gender non-conformist members and basically anyone who doesn’t fit the B, G, L or S in our name.”

IRIS stands for Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities. Sherrell said he came up with the name after discovering that Iris was the Greek Goddess of Rainbows.

Before the name change, BGLSA’s (Bisexual Gay Lesbian Straight Alliance) name only included a small part of the queer community and, according to the IRIS Communications Director and fourth-year music student Caleb Coker, the organization has not been as inclusive of the trans community as it could be.

“We would have a trans meeting every now and again, but it wasn’t a trans safe place,” Coker said. “It’s hard to have 50 to 100 people at a meeting and have them all at the same level of knowledge on trans topics. Each year people are learning more, but sometimes one person’s way of talking about things might be damaging for a trans person, and it is simply because that person doesn’t know any better.”

Coker said this is something that IRIS is striving to focus on more. As these topics become more prominent in the media and better-known issues on campus, IRIS meetings have become more content driven.

“At times it almost feels like a lecture,” Coker said. “And that’s what we try to avoid, but we are dealing with such dense material and such things you really have to have a grasp on to interact with.”

According to Coker, IRIS meetings are community-building and fun. Additionally, IRIS is trying to create a space for really creating change on campus. IRIS is doing more demonstrations and is looking to work with more marginalized community groups on campus.

Over the past year, IRIS has linked up with other organizations on campus such as AAAS, The Association of African American Students. They did a black trans life demonstration on Greene Street and have utilized their social media to advocate for movements like #BlackLivesMatter.

According to Sherrell, one of the coolest groups coming up is TSA, the Trans Student Alliance.

“It is not an official organization yet, but they have been doing some great organizing for the trans community on campus,” Sherrell said. “So we are really trying to help them get recognition as an official organization. Until they get that, they can’t request for student government funds, so we are just trying to provide them with any of the resources that they need.”

Sherrell hopes that the name change lets its straight and queer members know that the the LGBTQ organization is trying to be more inclusive. But he also hopes that the name change shows them that they are an essential part of the organization.

“I think that maybe trans and gender nonconformist students didn’t fit under our umbrella before and maybe when they saw the name they thought, ‘Well I’m not welcome here and this group doesn’t include me,’” Sherrell said. “Hopefully now, when they see ‘Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities’, they know that we try to include and welcome them, that we have programming for them and that they are valued in our community.”

IRIS meets Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in room 107 of Currell College and always has free food. 


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