Gays of Our Lives, an annual event for new-student orientation, is intended to break down sexual orientation and gender identity stereotypes. "I'm not sure when it started, but well before my time at Vassar," says Alison Abreu-Garcia, steering chair of QCVC (Queer Coalition of Vassar College), the student group that organizes the event. "It's for first-year students, but a lot of returning students want to attend as well, so we generally completely pack the space."
First-year students ask questions of a group of panelists to attempt to determine their sexual and gender identities. The questioning process is moderated by hosts who screen out any questions that are too specifically directed at sexual or gender identity. All panelists answer each question, unless a question is directed to a specific panelist.
After the Q-and-A, the panelists exit, and the first-year students vote as to whether a panelist is straight, gay, or bi. "While we recognize that there are other orientations, we only offer these three choices to force the students to pigeonhole the panelists, as society often does," says Abreu-Garcia. After the votes are in, the panelists return and reveal their sexual orientations and gender identities, which are often not what the voters thought. "The event serves to debunk many of the stereotypes surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity," says Abreu-Garcia. "This year was one of the first times the first-year students voted correctly on a majority of the panelists. However, those they misidentified were able to educate them about their own identities."
The event also included a screening of a short film created by a team of students, a dance routine, and an ice cream social afterwards. "We try to make it as fun as possible, while still educating the students about important LGBTQ issues." In addition to Abreu-Garcia, the organizing committee included Phillipe Kleefield, Naquan Earp, Rasheed Gonga, David Rodriguez (host), and Luis Trujillo (host).
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.