By Meagan White
Students hear many things as they make their way across campus, but “Spring out! Drag out! Come to the Drag Show tonight!” are words that echo above the crowd.
Freshman Michael Raymond, public relations officer for MT Lambda, handed out flyers about the organization’s events for the evening.
“This is one of the many events we have planned for this week,” Raymond said with a grin. “It’s all about Spring Out! week and to celebrate the [LGBT College] Conference.”
Though this is only his first year at the university, Raymond has become actively involved in what the group has to offer. Several officers from MT Lambda had set up a table in the Student Union Building on campus. Informational flyers and posters coated the table and each member sat rapt and ready to share all they had planned.
“This is the ‘NO H8’ Photo Booth!” said the Vice President of MT Lambda, Hannah Todd.
On the wall behind her was a large white square of paper with “NO H8” painted in large, black letters across the top. There, students were given the opportunity to be photographed in front of the poster to show support.
“MT Lambda is really important to the campus community,” Todd said. “It’s the only group that specifically works with LGBTQ students and their allies.”
According to her, this spring semester has been about making sure everyone has the services they need. MT Lambda has worked to provide a safe place for members of the LGBTQ community by providing the resources should a conflict arise.
“We haven’t any major incidents this semester,” Todd said. “I do think things are getting better.”
The group is constantly organizing events for the LGBTQ community from dance lessons to educational seminars and guest speaker.
“Everyone who comes to the group is always very willing to help and very reliable,” Todd said. “[MT Lambda] is all about getting people involved in the way that they want to be.”
The organization strives to provide a social outlet for its members, educate them on pertinent political matters, provide education, and, perhaps most importantly, create a community where everyone feels safe and welcomed. Membership is available to all students, whether they identify as LGBTQ or not.
“The idea is to make everyone feel welcome,” Todd said.
Members of the LBGTQ community have responded very positively and enthusiastically overall. In terms of the reactions from the MTSU community as a whole, Todd admits that feelings have been mixed. She and many of the others feel that a lack of knowledge about the LGBTQ community is what spurs many of the less-than-welcoming attitudes they receive.
“[In Tennessee], you have those people who are maybe not as used to dealing with the LGBTQ community as other places,” Todd said. “But the more people see us, the more positive things get.”
In addition to providing for the LGBTQ community as a whole, MT Lambda has also affected Hannah Todd in a personal way.
“It gives me the platform I need to make the changes I want to see,” Todd explained. “I don’t feel like I have to sit on the sidelines and wait for someone higher up to do something. I can do it myself.”
As the group continues to grow and broadcast itself, more changes have been seen. Small shifts in daily contact has improved and even larger strides have been made with the addition of various gender identification options being added to the university’s application in the fall.
Todd continued to express her excitement about the Inaugural LGBT College Conference being hosted by MTSU this weekend, and stressed how big an accomplishment it is.
“It’s free for all students and faculty,” Todd explained excitedly, clapping her hands together. “You should go ahead and register is you haven’t already, and it’s right here on campus, so you don’t have to go anywhere.”
The conference will feature keynote speaker Elizabeth Birch, a noted gay rights activist, and is all about educating the state of Tennessee about the LGBTQ community. More than one hundred students have already registered.
Students can register for the conference online and find more details on the MT Lambda Facebook page.
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