Artemis Nunez came to the University of Idaho this year from a high school with just three queer people.
She said she had been struggling with her gender identity for around nine months and found a community at UI.
“To feel accepted and feel like I could finally identify as a woman, it was a feeling unlike I had ever felt, because for the first time in years I finally felt like I was myself,” Nunez said.
To bring more people together like Nunez, the LGBTQA Office is hosting a social event. The Gender Non-Binary/Gender Nonconforming Queer Student Social Meet Up takes place from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday in the Panorama Room of the Idaho Commons.
Director of the LGBTQA Office Julia Keleher said the meet up is part of a series of identity-based socials this semester.
“Sometimes it’s nice to be around folks who have similar experiences and to have a place where you can just relax and be yourself and talk about stuff that happens to people with different identities,” Keleher said.
LGBTQ allies are welcome at the event, but Keleher said it’s focused on building a community for people who fall outside the binary male-female conception of gender. She said people who are gender nonconforming face a combination of challenges.
“So finding restrooms that they feel comfortable using — locker rooms, residence hall rooms,” Keleher said.
Keleher said individuals can also face “microaggressions,” such as people staring or being uncomfortable around them in general.
As a trans woman, senior student Madeline Scyphers said she’s experienced microaggressions as well as more severe aggression, but found a queer community to be part of in Moscow. She said social spaces like the upcoming event are necessary to give trans and nonconforming people a place to exist and be human, free from aggression or politicization.
“I need to be able to be a person, and I can’t be thinking what me existing in a space means to everyone around me all the time,” Scyphers said. “I need to destress about it and not think about it.”
After spending several years as part of UI’s queer community, Scyphers said she is able to help others work through the challenges they face with their own gender orientation.
“I definitely came out as trans because I met Madeline,” said junior Julien Arias. “I had no idea what I was doing, but I was able to talk to Madeline and even though I’m a trans male and she’s a trans woman and our experiences are very different, it was still really nice to be able to talk to someone that to some extent understood what I was feeling.”
Nunez said she came out as trans after talking with Scyphers as well. Arias said the socials are important for organizations to hold.
“People don’t always want to go and do business stuff. They don’t want to do activism stuff all the time,” Arias said. “Sometimes you just want to go hang out with people you know aren’t going to call you the f-word, or aren’t going to say these slurs while you’re playing a game. You just want to go hang around people that are going to be OK for few hours.”
First-year Danielle Garvin said the socials can help new students feel comfortable and safe in the new and potentially scary environment of the university. Garvin went to a queer ice cream social last semesters and said they worried at first if there would be hateful people waiting around for gay people.
“And there wasn’t, and I like ice cream, so I went,” Garvin said. “And I was like ‘Gays and ice cream, at one time?’ It’s so good, like what could be better?”
Jack Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org