The Happy Trail

The return of Queer Alliance

How it and the Rainbow Center can help you

A performer at the 2014 scholarship fundraiser dag show that the Queer Alliance organized — Photo courtesy of Photo Services

The Puget Sound LGBTQN+ club is kickstarting weekly meetings this month after nearly a year of inactivity. The first meeting was on Monday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. in the Rendezvous Room and will be held at the same time and place each week. Senior Aden Mortensen, with the help of Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement (CICE) staff, announced on the Queer Alliance Facebook page that meetings will resume to help decide the direction of the club. Mortensen said that he was a member of the club before it disbanded.

“When the club started to disband I was immediately saddened. … This was the kind of open and freeing club that I had wanted to be a part of since high school,” Mortenson said. “Near the end of the club I felt that there was a lack of luster that I desperately wanted.”

Mortensen went to the Yellow House to seek support to get the club back up and running. Mortensen has decided that the first step is to hold weekly meetings to let those who show up help decide the direction of the club. He especially wants to look into advocacy work for the LGBTQN+ community on campus and in Tacoma, discuss social issues with the group and experience the Tacoma community together.

“The current global climate is not always welcoming, and to have allies and our community to fall back on for support is always nice to have. Which is what I hope this club, or whatever it ends up turning into, will be for the people of this campus,” Mortensen said.

While the reshaped LGBTQN+ club is figuring out its next steps, there are a variety of resources that Puget Sound students can take advantage of on campus and around Tacoma. Puget Sound still offers trans housing in an on-campus house, and CICE offers supporting scholarships for student leaders and organizes LGBTQN+ related program offerings, talks and other connections.
One especially useful spot off campus is the Tacoma Rainbow Center. The Rainbow Center is a Tacoma organization that extends resources and a safe place for the LGBTQN+ community. The organization, which is housed on 2215 Pacific Ave, host events, such as the annual Black and White Gayla, and organizes the Tacoma Pride Parade in June. The Rainbow Center also advocates for LGBTQN+ victims of crime by providing one-on-one medical and legal advocacy, crisis intervention and therapy vouchers for mental health services. 

The center also offers numerous education programs. The LGBTQN+ Core Competency, Gender Identity and LGBTQN+ Sensitivity trainings are intended to teach professional groups and classrooms the basics of LGBTQN+ identity knowledge and equip them with inclusion and sensitivity skills.

Puget Sound students can benefit from the various community programs that the Rainbow Center offers, such as trans and gender nonconforming support and social events, LGBTQN+ career networking events, free HIV testing, LGBTQN+ Bookclub, LGBTQN+ AA Meetings, PFLAG Meetings, Bisexual and Gay Men’s Social Groups and more.

Puget Sound itself has ties to the center as well. Each summer Puget Sound is represented by students and the CICE staff at the Tacoma Pride Parade. Additionally, students have organized to volunteer at the Black and White Gayla.

Campus Chaplain Dave Wright said that Puget Sound has had a relationship with Rainbow Center since before he started working at Puget Sound in 2006. Rainbow Center executive director Manny Santiago has been present at a number of campus events, spoken in classes, gave a talk about “The Sacredness of Queer Sex” at Lighthouse Christian Fellowship (read about Lighthouse on page six of the Features section!) and recently met with student leadership teams to talk about doing nonprofit work through interfaith and intercultural lenses.

“There’s been a long-term relationship, but I’ve never seen staff from Rainbow Center as wonderfully engaged with us as Manny has been,” Wright said.

Santiago oversees the day-to-day operations of the center and works to build relationships with other organizations in Pierce County and Tacoma, including the Puget Sound campus. He strives to expand resources for LGBTQN+ people through education, advocacy and celebration. Their calendar can be found on their website or their active Facebook page, which highlights multiple events for Black History Month.

“I think that Puget Sound students could really benefit from our resources, especially our affinity groups,” Santiago said. “I have found that they help a lot for students to find connection beyond school. Additionally, our mental health services as well as our library are open to Puget Sound students and could be great resources.”

While Tacoma Rainbow Center does not offer internships to students, all are welcome to volunteer at the center for events, staff the library, plan social media posts and help out with office work.

The Center works alongside the Oasis Youth Center and the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, which also provide LGBTQN+ services to the public, including STI testing.