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LGBT Community Relies on the Rainbow Connection

Spectrum redefines BU’s queer identity

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Spectrum members (from left) Hawke Bassignani (CAS’11), Raul Brens (CAS’08), Emeri Burks (CAS’08), Laura Carpenter (CFA’10), faculty advisor Osvaldo Delvalle, Katie Tyson (CAS’09), and Bridget McNulty (SED’09) at a weekly meeting. Photos by Frank Curran

The students who gather for Spectrum’s weekly meetings are as diverse as the colors of the rainbow flag draped across the classroom door. President Emeri Burks is a male-to-female transgender who identifies as a lesbian, treasurer Raul Brens says he is “as gay as the day is long,” and vice president Bridget McNulty is bisexual. All classify themselves as “queer,” a term often used to broadly describe members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, community.

“We’re a very open and friendly group,” says Burks (CAS’08). “Whether you’re gay, bi, trans, questioning, or an ally, you’ll have a place in Spectrum.”

Just as the rainbow flag symbolizes diversity within the gay community, Spectrum strives to represent every queer student at BU, says McNulty (SED’09). “Historically speaking, the queer community has been marginalized,” she says, “so it’s important for Spectrum to provide a safe and supportive environment for anyone who identifies as queer. We want queer students to know they have a home here at BU, and we want them to be proud of themselves and proud of their culture.”

While no one knows for sure how many LGBT students are on campus, McNulty estimates that there are at least a couple of thousand. “There’s a very large queer presence here,” she says, “so it’s important that the queer organization also have a large presence.”

Since the 1980s, BU has hosted a variety of LGBT groups, including Outlaw, the School of Law’s organization for LGBT students. But Spectrum, established in 2000, is currently the University’s only undergraduate LGBT alliance. Comprising approximately 50 active members, including five executive board, or e-board, officers, Spectrum strives to increase public awareness, tolerance, and support for BU’s LGBT community.

The group was not always as active as it is today, says Osvaldo Delvalle, Spectrum’s faculty advisor, who is the residence director of Shields Tower in Warren Towers. “I sought out Spectrum when I first came to BU, because I’d been involved in the LGBT alliance at DePaul University,” he says. “I told the kids in Spectrum they could use me as a resource, but I never heard back from them.”

During the next two years, Spectrum floundered as interest waned, membership lagged, and turnover plagued the group’s leadership. By the time Burks, McNulty, and Brens took the reins last spring, Spectrum’s on-campus visibility was at an all-time low. And that’s when Brens (CAS’08) sought advice from Delvalle.

Under Delvalle’s direction, the new officers rewrote Spectrum’s mission statement and updated its constitution. Each officer received training in public speaking and leadership skills, resulting in a more coherent — and ultimately, more effective — organization. “Spectrum has done more in the last semester than it’s done in the past two years,” Brens says.

In October, the group ushered in its new era with a rally on Marsh Plaza celebrating National Coming Out Day; the following evening, Spectrum hosted its first annual Drag Ball, which drew more than 400 participants. Last semester’s activities also included a queer poetry reading and a queer holiday party.

This semester, officers have planned an even bigger lineup of events. On February 4, Spectrum hosted a gay men’s dating workshop, led by Delvalle, and on February 11, will follow a lesbian dating workshop, with Melissa Straz (SED’05), an academic support specialist at the Educational Resource Center. Over Presidents’ Day weekend, 12 members will travel to Montreal to visit McGill University’s LGBT alliance, and in April, the group plans to bring back the Drag Ball and sponsor Queernival, an outdoor music and performance festival featuring queer-friendly musicians. At Spectrum’s weekly meetings, members enthusiastically come up with ideas, with proposals ranging from game, or “gayme,” nights to a gay prom at the end of the year.

“We’ve become much more visible, and I think it’s given us a lot more credibility on campus, particularly among administrators,” Brens says. “I feel like we’re definitely having a greater impact on campus this year.”

Spectrum meets every Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room B-14 of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

4 Comments

4 Comments on LGBT Community Relies on the Rainbow Connection

  • Katie Tyson on 02.05.2008 at 9:10 am

    More Info About Spectrum!

    For anyone who wants more information on Spectrum, our website is http://people.bu.edu/spectrum/, and our Facebook group is here: http://bu.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2200250734.

    Facebook is our primary method of communication, so join the group if you want announcements about our meetings and events!

    -Katie Tyson, CAS ’09
    Inter-Organizational Coordinator

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2008 at 4:33 pm

    Kudos to Spectrum & their dedicated advisor!

    It makes me happy to see the students’ hard work and dedication to this wonderful organization – along with Mr. Del Valle’s tireless commitment – recognized in BU Today. Mr. Del Valle deserves the “advisor of the year” award, if such a thing exists! Well done! I hope that Spectrum continues to experience this perpetual renaissance of interest, education, outreach, activity, and growth!

  • Janeice on 02.10.2008 at 9:22 pm

    Spectrum

    Osvaldo,

    You are one of the most beautiful human beings that I have the honor of knowing. I am so proud of you and the work that you do. Keep moving forward.

    Always,
    Janeice

  • Alexa on 02.17.2008 at 11:38 pm

    Great job

    I think it’s really great what you guys have made of Spectrum and ensured that it is taken more seriously as a group at BU and raising awareness of the LGBT community. You all are helping so many people with coming out and being happy in themselves.

    And to Emeri Burks- you are an amazing girl. I hope to meet you some day. You’re determination and truth to yourself is admirable and you are an amazing role model.

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