The University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center hosted their second annual LGBT Queer Welcome Carnival Thursday in Regents Plaza, greeting students with free T-shirts, cotton candy, popcorn and carnival games.
Some carnival attendees were returning students, while others were new students coming to their first LGBTQ community event. Several students noted the welcoming and inclusive environment characterizing the event.
“I think it’s really cool to see friendly faces and see that they are welcoming and that it’s a safe space,” said Engineering freshman Jazmyn Rivera. “It’s great to have a community that you belong to on campus.”
Attendees also included international students who were experiencing everything the Spectrum Center has to offer for the first time, allowing them the opportunity to reflect on themes of diversity and inclusion.
“Coming from a country where it is a taboo topic, this (welcome carnival) is great,” said Engineering freshman Jaim Befeler. “Knowing that there is an event specifically for LGBTQ people is amazing.”
Chelsea Noble, the graduate coordinator for professional development at the Spectrum Center, described the event as an important opportunity for members of the campus community who identify as LGBTQ to kick off the school year.
“The Spectrum Center wants to make sure we have a visible presence and welcome our students to campus,” Noble said. “It matters so much in the new school year to find people and friends so we hope that also strengthens the LGBTQ community on campus.”
The carnival also included faculty on the University of Michigan OUTlist — an internal database that allows members in the University LGBTQ community to connect with one another and find resources and support.
When asked what he enjoyed most about being a part of the LGBTQ community at Michigan, Befeler simply answered, “No judgment.”
The event was also a chance for upperclassmen to return to a community that has supported them throughout their college careers, such as Nursing senior John Shaver, who became actively involved in the Spectrum Center’s Queer and Christian Club as a sophomore.
“Every other week was a hangout and then the in-between weeks were Bible studies,” Shaver stated. “It was intentionally creating a space for queer Christians because oftentimes churches aren’t the most welcoming to queer people.”
Shaver said that the Spectrum Center provides a welcoming space that helps normalize the idea of embracing an active LGBTQ community on campus — an especially important goal given the recent implementation of several diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the University.
“I think being queer is somewhat normalized in our generation, but I think for a lot of us, where we come from, it’s not,” Shaver said. “So for new students it lets people know it’s not a really big deal to be out and about. I think the people are very welcoming and whatever your experience is, there’s someone there that understands that and is empathetic to that.”
Noble said that the center will continue to host such community-oriented events throughout the year, such as for National Coming Out Week and LGBTQ+ Health and Wellness Week, in addition to more educational events, including trainings on LGBTQ identities and the Guidance Perspective Support peer mentorship program.
In providing these programs, Noble said the center takes a personal approach to helping students join the LGBTQ community at the University.
“It mattered to have a really tight-knit community, to have a center where I can go and fully be myself and know that people got that, so it’s important for me to offer the same for our students here,” she said.