A “GLBT Safe Zone” sign can be seen on the third floor of the Student Center on a closet door, behind which resides the office for the Saluki Rainbow Network.
The Saluki Rainbow Network, a Registered Student Organization, has been active on campus since 1971 and operates out of what was previously a maintenance closet.
“It is a closet and we are a gay-straight alliance,” said Scott Schackmann, secretary and president elect of the Saluki Rainbow Network. “We would like to have a safe zone with more than two chairs, but not many RSOs get an office so we make the best of it.”
Schackmann, a senior from Odin studying foreign language and international trade, said it could also seem like a metaphor: the Saluki Rainbow Network is confined to a tight space, and the GLBT community is confined in society.
Schackmann, who worked with Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of the GLBT Resource Center, to plan GLBT Awareness Week, said they decided to bring in speaker Ryan Conrad, founder of Against Equality, to provide a different perspective on the GLBT community within society.
A doctoral student in sexuality studies at Concordia University, Conrad said he started Against Equality as a personal project online in response to the classist and urban-centric pro-gay marriage campaign in his home state of Maine in 2009.
After he began Against Equality as a small personal project, it quickly grew to become a multifaceted online archive, publishing and arts collective with the help of co-founder and Chicago-based activist Yasmin Nair, Conrad said.
“The Against Equality collective does work as activists and intellectuals challenging the narrow scope of mainstream gay and lesbian politics involving marriage, the military and hate crimes laws,” he said.
In today’s society, an individual or group has to be active and involved to accomplish anything, Schackmann said.
“You can’t just sit back and let things take their course, because nothing will ever happen,” Schackmann said. “We want to make ourselves and our issues visible.”
It’s important to make the community aware of the presence of gay and lesbian individuals on campus, said Wyatt Humrichous, vice president of the Saluki Rainbow Network.
Humrichous, a freshman from Chrisman studying political science, said the Saluki Rainbow Network strives to help GLBT community members and allies take a stand for equality for everyone.
He said it would be rewarding to see that effort contribute to the grand scheme of GLBT rights movements everywhere.
“As a member of the GLBT community myself, I find it very important to further the purpose of the community,” Humrichous said. “We’re an oppressed people and we’re in a position where we need to advance ourselves and progress.”
The history of queer and trans activism in the United States since the late 1960s is pretty amazing, Conrad said.
He said there were visionary people and organizations working toward building a better world, and they refused to sacrifice their imaginations for what they saw as the government’s empty promise of equality.
“Now, gays seem content to not only mimic the straight world, in all its horror, but also to collapse our ability to imagine a more just world where all sexual minorities can meet their emotional and material needs,” Conrad said.
He said he believes it is an important movement to bring awareness to the GLBT community’s perspectives of the world and the issues that affect all human beings.
“We are trying to build a better world, one where people don’t die or get deported because they aren’t married, a world where there are no wars, prisons or anti-gay violence,” Conrad said. “Why would we settle for anything less?”
Until that world arrives, the members of the Saluki Rainbow Network work to provide what it can with the space it has.
Schackmann said he and the officers have thought about their office space as being somewhat ironic.
“We say that our closet door is always open,” he said.