by GRACE ALTENHOFEN
Rainbow Union, the Drake’s LGBT+ student organization, has partnered with the Des Moines Performing Arts Center(DPAC) and the “It Gets Better” project to hold an LGBT+ Allyship Workshop on Feb. 13.
Rainbow Union President Brynn Yetzer said the idea for an allyship workshop was one that had been raised in the past, but the organization had not had the time or funding to make it a reality until now.
“The opportunity to actually do it presented itself when the Des Moines Performing Arts Center reached out to us in November of 2019 to let us know that they would be hosting the It Gets Better tour and that the tour was interested in doing some of their week of outreach events on Drake’s campus,” Yetzer said.
According to Yetzer, out of the several options for programming from “It Gets Better”, they chose the LGBTQ+ Allyship Workshop, which took place Feb. 13 in Sussman Theater, and Broadway Karaoke, which was held Feb. 14 at Pomerantz Stage.
“This event took a lot of coordination between us, DPAC and the tour members,” Yetzer said. “There was a lot of logistics to figure out and paperwork to do.”
Though the “It Gets Better” tour was in charge of creating the actual content of the presentation, Yetzer said they gave a description of what the event would look like.
“The general outline I received included a presentation about the history and dimensions of allyship, a few allyship case studies and a couple of opportunities to discuss allyship with the people around you,” Yetzer said.
Rainbow Union member Emma Grace Bradley said she hopes the presentation teaches allies how to respectfully ask questions when they do not know something.
“I would say with the LGBT community, people who want to be allies really don’t know how to start being allies,” Bradley said. “I feel like a lot of people who aren’t part of the LGBT community are afraid to ask questions, and asking questions is a really good place to start, but they’re afraid of offending people. That’s why they should go to the workshop.”
Yetzer said one of the main goals is to help allies understand the challenges faced by marginalized groups.
“The goal is for people to better understand the experiences of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities and leave the event with the skills to be better allies to these communities,” Yetzer said. “Being an ally to marginalized communities is extremely important.”
Those not belonging to marginalized groups should especially work on being allies, Yetzer said, so they can use their privilege to help others.
“I believe it is because (many) people with power and privilege only listen to other people with power and privilege,” Yetzer said. “People who do have certain privileges should use them to advocate for marginalized communities. Being an ally is the best way to help demarginalize communities and move towards equality.”
Jacob Lish, Rainbow Union’s representative to UNITY Roundtable, emphasized the importance of being an ally, whether it be in an active or passive manner.
“I hope people just take away a wider understanding of the LGBT community on campus and where they can stand and how to be an ally, whether that be an active ally, like showing up to different events, or being a passive ally and being around others and being accepting of others and different things like that,” Lish said.
Yetzer said there is the possibility the program could turn into an annual event.
“I think it is a great idea and it would be really cool if this could be an annual event, but I don’t know yet if it’s feasible,” Yetzer said. “I will pay attention to how the tour runs the event to see if it’s something that students could lead themselves. If that is the case, I could definitely see us going forward with doing a similar program on an annual basis.”
Until then, Yetzer said they encourage everyone to attend Rainbow Union meetings to continue in their allyship to the LGBT community.
“I want people to know that RU is open to all Drake students. I have found that a number of straight students feel like they wouldn’t be welcome at our meetings because they aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Yetzer said. “One of our goals as an organization is to educate people outside of our community about who we are and what issues we are currently facing.”
Yetzer mentioned that RU doesn’t do much programming over the semester, so another great way for allies to learn about the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community would be to join the organization at their regular meetings.