By Courtney Ditto
In the last year, the LGBTQ community has had a lot to celebrate. This summer, eyes flocked to Vanity Fair’s cover of the Olympian Bruce Jenner’s transition: “Call me Caitlyn,” and in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, a long battle for the legalization of gay marriage was finally won.
Alan Ridley, a 17-year-old liberal arts and sciences transfer student, and president of Washtenaw Community College’s Outspace Club, believes that thanks to public figures such as Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, who are spreading more positive awareness for the transgender community. People are building a better understanding of what Ridley says is an “anti-trans” image that the media has produced.
“Education is a big, big part of what we do,” Ridley stated. “When I started coming here, I was just questioning who I was and I was looking for a spot to be myself around other people. When I joined the club, I knew what LGBTQ was but I definitely know more now than I did then. It just goes back to helping in educating people.”
According to Ridley, the Outspace club is “more of a safe space than a support group. It’s a safe place for LGBTQ+ people to be out.”
Outspace welcomes all students at WCC and any other college students in the area to come out, show support and raise awareness for the discrimination against those who are transgender, gay, bisexual, etc.
“It’s one of those names that if you weren’t in the community, you wouldn’t understand what it meant right off the bat, so if someone asks, ‘Where were you?’ and you say ‘Outspace,’ it wouldn’t automatically out you,” Ridley said.
This upcoming fall, Outspace is taking on an entire new face, regenerating the club and how it runs – starting with doing away with the traditional positions of president, vice president, and putting their ordering on a “council” level.
This equal standpoint of power is just the beginning of a very busy semester for Outspace, having already set forward a system to allow “preferred names” to be printed on school IDs and class rosters, and used for school emailing. While Ridley says that the club is still working out the kinks of the system, it is possible to obtain a school ID with a preferred name, completely free of cost.
Outspace also recently paired up with Corner Health <http://www.cornerhealth.org> – a service center in Ypsilanti dedicated to helping young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 in providing support and health care. Outspace and Corner Health have recently worked together to provide an “open closet,” called “Labels without Labels,” that gives young transgenders the opportunity to get clothing that isn’t as easily accessible or affordable.
“They (transgenders) often feel uncomfortable going shopping, so we arranged a big volunteer donation drive to get clothes donated, we also had hair and makeup artists come out,” said Director of Communications and Youth Development Monique Selimos.
Selimos felt that in serving the LGBTQ community with an open closet to buy clothes, it creates a safer shopping experience.
Despite what can often be a constant battle for the LGBTQ community, Outspace continues to grow and gain strength in their endeavors to help in educating the general public.
“I think that having clubs and organizations for the LGBTQ community to have more support is incredible,” said Tami Bates, 27-year-old WCC general studies student. “The world today is changing, and I believe it’s time for more of a general understanding of every community that has been silenced for so long.”