LGBTea Time: a safe, open, and supportive event

LGBT community members gather for open dialogue

Sienna Coleman

sicoleman@ursinus.edu

Originally, LGBTea Time was a group of friends led by former GSA president Robin Gow ‘18 that would meet casually to talk about their experiences as members of the LGBT community. Cyn Ercole ‘21 was inspired to reestablish the event “so that LGBT students on campus could talk about LGBT issues. I wanted to create space for all people on campus where we can come together as an LGBT community and have open dialogue.” Ursinus “hasn’t been as open” as Ercole would have hoped. Ercole explains that LGBT community members have talked to her about harmful experiences: “within the community we are open, but the school is not quite as liberal in that sense.” This is why she “wanted to do something more for the campus… wanted to somehow make it better.”

When Ercole explained to her advisor, Dr. Kara McShane, that she saw this need in the community, McShane suggested that an “inclusivity grant would be perfect to apply for.” Ercole wrote a proposal stating her vision and got a grant which enabled her to make the event as easy-going as possible, with catering for tea, coffee, cookies and desserts.

On January 28, Ercole started off the first event with an ice-breaker and brought a few questions for discussion. She said, “I wanted to ask questions that weren’t entirely queer stuff, to help us get to know each other more.”

Ercole revealed that “the turnout was way better than I expected,” and she loved seeing faculty and staff in addition to students. She said, “I saw my friends there, it was awesome to see people I knew come and support me and each other.”

“It’s surreal to think that I’m the one who put this together,” Ercole said. “People are thankful for the gathering, for an opportunity to talk and be with each other on campus. It was really very nice to have positive feedback from people who have wanted a space that is very inclusive, positive and very chill at the same time,” Ercole said. Des ‘22 shared that LGBTea Time “was a casual and open experience that also totally embodied the safe space that I wanted. I’m looking forward to more fun events.”

McShane felt that LGBTea Time was “a really valuable opportunity for us to gather a community across student, faculty, & staff lines. (It was really wonderful to have staff attend!) Students tend to have opportunities for informal gatherings, particularly with folks who have a shared affinity (like LGBTQ folks): I’m thinking about groups like the GSA or spaces like Queer House. But there are many fewer chances for faculty & staff to gather informally in general, let alone within those affinity groups. So, supporting events like this one seems to me to be an important way that the college shows support for the LGBTQ community here. I also really value the chance to gather a little more informally with students, and I think it’s important for them to see and know that there are LGBTQ faculty & staff who can empathize with some of their experiences.”

The next LGBTea Time will focus on sharing personal experiences. Ercole felt this was an important topic because “the queer community on campus is very friendly and we talk, but there isn’t conversation of what we experience as queer individuals. That’s important for dialogue so no one is alone in their experience.” Ercole will be hosting this teatime in Olin 104 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on February 26. She would like to welcome “students, faculty and staff who are part of LGBT community and any friends or allies in support.” And that’s the tea on LGBTea Time.