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Triskelion offers safe space, educational opportunities

Published: October 7, 2011
Section: Features


Halee Brown ’13, after applying early decision, knew by December of her senior year that she would be attending Brandeis. There were three things she wanted to get involved in: “Frisbee, newspaper and queerdom.”

She learned about Triskelion, Brandeis’ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally student group, when she came to Waltham for Accepted Students Day in 2009. After attending the annual Triskelion, or Trisk, drag show, she knew she had to get involved.

“I never expected to feel about Trisk the way that I do,” Brown said. “The show spoke to me so much about how open Brandeis is and I knew I wanted to be part of Trisk.”

Brown became general coordinator this year because of her “undying love for Trisk.” By the second week of her first year, she had dedicated all of her extra time and love to the club, which is in the Intercultural Center umbrella, and was attending as many branch meetings and events as she could.

Brown explained that Trisk’s goals are two-fold: “We strive to create a community for all queer and allied individuals to provide a safe social environment while educating people who are interested or curious.”

Open executive board meetings begin at 7 p.m. each Thursday and lead into general meetings at 8 p.m. The meetings, Brown said, strive to balance educational and social aspects and, in the past, have included mural painting for Coming Out Week and Queer Jeopardy, with information about gender and sexual identities, resources in the Boston area and other trivia.

This year, Brown wants to build up the general membership of Trisk and its various branches and get members more involved in planning the weekly meetings.

In order to expand and gain more recognition, another of Brown’s goals, Trisk plans several campus-wide events each year. Some, like Coming Out Week and November’s Trans Awareness Week are coordinated with nation-wide events and days of remembrance. There have also been informational meetings about current issues like gay marriage and the recently repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In the coming months, Trisk has several events in the works, including a Nov. 5 dance co-hosted with Student Events as part of Louis Louis, a coffeehouse Nov. 17, and a Nov. 19 performance in the SCC theater by Schmekel, a transgender Jewish punk band.

“We try to keep things relevant but also build a community where people feel comfortable talking about and exploring these issues,” Brown said.

In April, nationally recognized as Pride Month, Trisk hosts speakers, performers, a Sex and Sexuality Symposium research conference, and the drag show Brown attended as an admitted student.

“Trisk really means a lot to me. It’s offered me a lot and I think that so far it’s taught me more and helped me grow more than anything else at Brandeis,” Brown said. “Trisk has offered me a wealth of information that I can pass on to others. I get to redefine queer every day.”

Trisk’s Branches

As an all-inclusive club, Trisk aims to incorporate everyone who wants to be a part of it, but Brown acknowledged that some identities “need a specific support system that we can’t always offer.” Trisk’s branches were created so students, whether identifying or allying with them, can find those support systems. During the years branches have been established and faded out, and this year four remain: TransBrandeis, Queer People of Color Coalition, the Sex and Sexuality Symposium, and the Queer Resource Center. All branches are open to anyone interested.

TransBrandeis

TransBrandeis, run by co-coordinators Mariah Henderson ’12 and Sara Brande ’15, was created to serve members of the Brandeis community who identify as or question whether they may be transgender or transsexual and trans allies, and aims to help students express their identities on campus and beyond. “We are an open club of allies and transpeople, and are a support and information and social group,” Henderson said. While most of Trisk focuses on outreach and education, TransBrandeis’ effect on university policy is usually minimal. TransBrandeis, however, has had several influential impacts, including a gender neutral housing policy in sophomore housing and gender neutral bathrooms in some dorms. In the past, members of TransBrandeis have also provided resources for transitioning students, especially the administrative and logistical changes that are necessary. The past few years, along with the rest of Trisk, TransBrandeis has coordinated a Trans Awareness Week in November to correspond to other national events.

Queer People of Color Coalition

The Queer People of Color Coalition (QPOCC) “looks to provide a safe space to individuals who identify under our namesake’s umbrella,” coordinator Dillon Harvey ’14 said. The Trisk branch was formed two years ago by students who had difficulty expressing the intersection of their race and gender with their sexual identities to other members of Trisk. “When one possesses two identity markers that deviate from normativity, the complexity is quite captivating,” Harvey said. As coordinator, he hopes to build membership and plan events both to help struggling students and inform the rest of the student body about “the complications for a queer person of color in addition to successes and achievements attained by queer people of color.” For Coming Out Week, QPOCC is planning a meeting to explore the complications of coming out as a person of color and helping the rest of Trisk and the other branches facilitate events.

Sex and Sexuality Symposium

Sex and Sexuality Symposium (SASS), a discussion-based branch of Trisk, meets each Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Intercultural Center lounge. During meetings, Brown, who is also SASS coordinator, and other students discuss issues surrounding gender, sex and sexuality. “We’ve discussed the concept of queer, both as a word, a theory, an identity and how it relates to us. We also talked about the labels we choose to identify ourselves with, along with the labels we believe others put on us,” Brown said. In addition to weekly meetings, SASS coordinates and hosts an April undergraduate research conference, during which students are invited to present on topics relating to gender, sex and sexuality.

Queer Resource Center

The Queer Resource Center (QRC) is one of Brandeis’ peer-counseling organizations. The 10 members, chosen through an application process and led by co-coordinators Mick Dunn ’12 and Dani Zionts ’12, do dorm raps and speak to clubs and classes as well as running office hours in the library, which they share with Student Sexuality Information Services (SSIS). The group strives to create “resources and safe spaces for students to talk about issues of gender, sexuality and identity,” co-coordinator Zionts said. That includes anyone who doesn’t identify as cisgender, a term used to indicate a correlation between a person’s gender identity and physical body, she said, as well as straight-identified student allies. During extensive training, QRC counselors learn how to approach issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault and topics relating to gender and sexuality, ranging from helping people who don’t identify as cisgender to kink, or non-normative sexual practices like BDSM and polyamory, Zionts said. “We strive to be a safe space, both in our office and in the rest of campus,” she said, explaining that many people come to the QRC office for counseling and just to hang out and look through books.

Office hours: Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m., and by appointment.

This week, Triskelion is celebrating National Coming Out Day with a weeklong celebration.