By Katya Agatucci | The Broadside (Contact: email@example.com)
Wille Hall was filled with students, paper flower decorations, music and dancing for an all-inclusive spring fling hosted by the LGBTQ+ club Saturday night.
Dana Thomas, club member, said that she was looking forward to creating a space for people to have fun and not worry about being accepted. “That’s a huge issue with regular school dances. You’re never sure with same-sex couples how it’s going to go over at a school dance and how people are going to react. With an all-inclusive dance it’s a safe place.”
“[An all-inclusive dance] means having a space where everyone can come together and have a good time,” Oz Smith, Vice President of the club said.
According to Club President Shayla Maffit, they had been planning this dance since February. Maffit has been a club member since the last school year and is the president as of this fall.
To advertise for this dance, the club sent out emails and Thomas helped advertise on the club’s social media pages as well as reaching out to local high schools.
Smith said that their goal is to make the dance annual. Smith also said that the club had trouble setting it up, but it was their first time hosting an event like the spring fling.
“We’re going to have a good time no matter what, because we have folks that have put a lot of work into this, who really want to just come out and have a good time and have their hard work pay off. If we can engage the community in that, then all the better. If nothing else then we can learn from it and find places where we can improve,” Smith said.
This year, the club has been focusing on making connections with the community and reaching out to community organizers like Out Central Oregon and the Human Dignity Coalition according to Smith. “We are just trying to make those connections so that student voices, in particular queer students, are being heard and brought into the community.”
To help make those connections, Smith has become the Oregon Student Equal Rights Representative through the Oregon Student Association and is now their executive at large for the OSA branch of their organization. Smith heard about the organization through student government, and the equal rights organizer came to Central Oregon Community College looking to recruit someone from Bend.
“I think having that other connections with other campuses statewide is going to be really beneficial to run stuff like [the dance] because that way we get the reception back from them on how they run events like these on campus has been really helpful,” Smith said.
Maffit also said that they had a few sponsors including the Human Dignity Coalition, they joined the dance to set up a stand and advertise for themselves.
Jamie Bowman, president of HDC for two years, said that their ultimate goal is “To advance and safeguard the right of LGBT community through advocacy education and support.”
According to Bowman, a lot of what HDC does is outreach and helping connect people for support groups. “We also have support groups for the trans community who are 18 and over. We work with high school teachers and we are starting a project with the school district to try to make things more inclusive with things like sex education.”
HDC also works with Planned Parenthood, Central Oregon Pride, and other organizations “To make sure that everybody feels like they have a place and a support network,” Bowman said.
Bowman first heard about HDC when she was in a support group that had over 26,000 people on Facebook. Bowman has two children who are are transgender girls, which is what got her interested in advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. Bowman was in a support group for one of them and someone asked her if she wanted to join a support group in Bend.
“I started going to the support group, I started volunteering, and then I join the board, and then I became the president. It’s something that I’m really passionate about. We are always looking for volunteers and that we are open for anyone who needs us,” Bowman said.
The LGBTQ+ club at COCC is active and meets at 12 p.m. on Wednesdays. “We’re here for everyone. We are here for everyone to come out and enjoy the space and have fun on campus,” Smith said. ■