A Conversation with Queer Assembly Coordinator, Anna Perry
By Julia Chin, Staff Writer
On August 31, Gettysburg College held its first Queer Assembly. On that Friday night after the first week of classes, everyone seemed grateful to have a break to just relax and get to know one another better. Standing, sitting, and snacking, an assortment of students of all identities came to the event. Discussion around the circle included friendly introductions and jokes, but there also was a significant amount of sympathy shared as queer students spoke of some of the negative experiences that have affected their daily lives on Gettysburg’s campus.
After everyone broke into their own social circles, I got to sit down with Anna Perry ‘21, the student-program coordinator who provided the impetus for this event. They explained that their reason for hosting the queer assembly began when they were an orientation ambassador for the Mosaic program (a pre-orientation designed to help underrepresented students transition into college). As an ambassador, they had five mentees, but said that they were close with all of about 30 students who attended the orientation.
Perry recounted their conversation that ensued upon seeing some of these students saddened on the first day of regular first-year orientation, after the students asked them if queer people on this campus were treated differently.
“It was the first day of orientation,” Perry said. “They had just come from their icebreakers, and they were people of color, they were queer, they were first-generation, you know? They were vulnerable. And they came to me, and they were like, ‘People stare at us when we walk by, they get quiet.’ I sat with them in Servo today for dinner, and all the tables around us were looking at us. Staring at us just because we are different.”
After these students agreed with Perry that they were already beginning to feel separated from non-queer students, Perry decided to take action, saying, “I was just really heartbroken about it cause we had just had this amazing orientation where there was this great community building. We were all so close. We were all talking about our identity, and it was really beautiful. And it’s still not enough because this campus still doesn’t want us here. And so I was like, ‘I need to do something because this can’t keep going on.’ I went to the director of the LGBTQA+ center and was like, ‘Can I just hold an event as soon as possible just where queer kids can be themselves and you know just be respected for who they are?’”
“So it was inspired by that event,” Perry continued, “but it’s serving a purpose that I’ve been trying to fulfill for a long time, which is that the queer community on this campus is really discordant. It’s in crisis. Tiffany Lane [former director of the Office of LGBTQA Advocacy and Education] left, so there is no queer liaison in this college. She was there for us, which I didn’t even know as a freshman. I didn’t know who to go to, so I didn’t go to anyone. I assimilated, and that was miserable for me. I was so unhappy, and I know that there are going to be freshmen who are going to feel that pressure to assimilate, and I want to give them another option. I want them to feel like they don’t have to assimilate. I just need to start doing something.”
Perry shared what they felt was one of the student body’s main stereotypes regarding the queer community: “I think people on this campus think that if you go to outerspace [the student club designated as a safe space for students of all identities], in many years past since its inception, it’s been seen as a primarily white space and a primarily very political space. And so people feel like they can’t be queer on this campus because there’s only way to be queer on this campus, which is like a white lesbian or, you know, something along those lines. I think that people don’t realize how many closeted people are at this school. There are so many of us here but coming out: that’s a task! You’re taking on a lot. You’re not just saying that ‘I hope people accept me for who I am,’ you’re saying ‘I’m taking on the responsibility of educating everyone around me’ because the college isn’t taking the initiative to do that. So those are some stereotypes that I see on this college, and it’s sad, but I see why they’re being made because I think people have been trying, but we need to do better to make these spaces inclusive for everyone.”
On a larger scale, Anna spoke of adversities that the queer community faces off campus and the sense of isolation present when they return to their hometown during the college’s academic breaks: “I don’t have a community to go to that validates me. I think this is one of the biggest problems with queer kids: they don’t have that automatic community, and that’s why events like this are so important to simply validate their existence. Everywhere we go, we’re told that we don’t exist, that we’re disgusting, that we should die.”
Finally, I asked Anna if there was anything they would like to say to Gettysburg College community on a whole.
They had this to say in response: “If you have every felt like you couldn’t be completely honest about who you are or how you feel, I’ve been there, and you don’t have to lie about that. There are people here that want to help you, and I’m sorry that you’re in an environment where it’s hard to be honest about your life, but literally just come to me, and I will be here for you and respect your experience.”