Q&A Carries on LGBTQ Torch from MOQA

By Joe Flaherty

Following the disbandment in May of MOQA (Middlebury Open Queer Alliance), several students overhauled the organization’s image and mission to better serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Renamed Q&A: Queers and Allies, the group is “essentially a new organization” according to Bekah Moon ’15, the Q&A board member in charge of communications even though MOQA did not officially disband according to the documents submitted to the College. Moon explained the difficulty of starting a new organization caused Q&A to be more of a “rebranding” effort instead of an entirely new group.

Katie Linder ’15, Q&A co-chair, said that after MOQA’s announcement, “A lot of people were asking, ‘What are we going to do?’ There were a couple meetings that were open to everyone and so the people that were the former leadership of MOQA came, [along with faculty, staff and other students.]

“We all got together at the end of the year and had a discussion about whether or not we should rebrand, rename,” said Linder.

After deciding the campus needed a social space for LGBTQ students, the Q&A leadership revamped the website over the course of the summer and publicized the changes via a Facebook page.

According to Linder and Moon, their efforts appear to be working.

“So far I’ve noticed that a couple of my friends that aren’t part of the LGBT community but want to be involved have said that they feel more included now because the name explicitly says Queers and Allies, so that was one of our major goals with rebranding,” said Moon.

Q&A hosted a meet-and-greet event on Sept. 5 for first-years.

“A bunch of first-years showed up and I’m hoping they’ll stay interested and maybe want to be on the board next year,” Moon said.

Q&A co-chair David Yedid ’15 said improvements to Q&A’s board will make it a more effective voice for LGBTQ students.

“We have a larger board this year with more specific roles, rather than two or three Co-Chairs,” said Yedid in an email. Creating committees that fit more specific identities on campus is another goal of Q&A.

“An example would be Queer People of Faith or Queer People of Color,” said Yedid. “This allows members who want a meeting that more specifically meets their needs to have that space, even if it isn’t weekly.”

Differentiating Q&A from MOQA as a student group has helped generate interest in the group.

“For whatever reason, I think MOQA had a big stigma on campus amongst different communities and with different queer people as being too political or not political enough and at least thus far (maybe because we haven’t done anything yet) everyone’s excited about something different,” said Linder. “The opportunity to make something different is what people who are not first-years I have talked to are excited about.”

The board members described Q&A as more relaxed and informal than its predecessor.

Q&A aims to provide a social foundation, rather than academic, as the Queer Studies House covers this base.

“[We] wanted Q&A to be more of a social space for queer students and allies,” said Moon. “I think we are planning on alternating every week between a social gathering and something for planning events.”

Yedid said a long-term goal of Q&A is proposing an LGBTQ student coordinator.  He described the position as one designed to support LGBTQ-identifying or questioning students in their academic, social and personal endeavors.

“It’s unfair for us to call Middlebury a ‘safe space’ if so much of the activism is student-driven and nothing is happening top-down from the administration,” he added.

Although the potential absence of any student-run LGBTQ group was not the deciding factor for creating Q&A, it was part of the board’s motivation.

“It wasn’t the only thing that I thought about with MOQA disbanding but it definitely struck home that we couldn’t not have [a student-run LGBTQ group],” said Linder.

Moon said the board was more worried about incoming LGBTQ students when thinking about a campus without Q&A or an equivalent organization.

“There are definitely queer students in every class so when they come to college and there’s nothing there it makes it seem as either the school doesn’t care or for some reason the campus isn’t as queer-friendly,” said Moon.

Linder emphasized the importance of an LGBTQ student group existing on campus even if students feel they do not need a formal organization.

“A lot of the people in my year that I’ve talked to and in the new sophomore class have said, ‘I don’t really need MOQA to be my queer community,’ but that’s not always true for incoming first-years,” said Linder. “And even if you don’t need it I want it to be a space to talk or just see people.”