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ISSUE 121 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/28/2007

Gender luncheon fosters community with cooperation

By Elizabeth Mitchell
Staff Writer

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Our Whole Lives," the second annual gender and sexuality welcome luncheon, took place during community time on Thursday, Sept. 20. The luncheon intended to bring together students, faculty, staff and allies of St. Olaf's GLBTQA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies) community.

A variety of campus groups came together to sponsor the event. These groups included Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW), the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), the St. Olaf Lesbian and Gay Employee Network (SOLGEN), the Alumni and Parent Relations and the Office for Community, Life, and Diversity.

Nathan Soland '04, assistant director of alumni and parent relations, commented about the original planning last year.

"We were looking for a way to bring like-minded people together to show new people that there was a community that they could be a part of once new students reached campus," he said.

So far, Soland is satisfied with the results; of the 47 students registered to attend Thursday's luncheon, 11 were first-years. "I'm excited that first-year students find this interesting," he said, and that by attending the luncheon "at least they know that there are networks on campus that deal with gender and sexuality issues."

Norwegian professor Nancy Aarsvold also stressed the importance of bringing together the many different types of people on campus. She said it is "designed to bring together faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends who are interested in how issues of gender and sexuality affect all aspects of life, hence the name 'Our Whole Lives.'"

When asked what she thought of the attitude towards gender and sexuality on campus, Aarsvold said, "The community at St. Olaf is becoming more inclusive and welcoming of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identityorexpression." Aarsvold cited some of the ways in which the school has grown more inclusive, including the increased number of gender and sexuality events on campus.

Last year, several campus organizations collaborated on three major events. The first was 'Our Whole Lives' luncheon in the fall; the second, a lecture series entitled "New Thinking about Sex and Love in Religion and Society" in the winter; the third, a GLBTQA senior luncheon in the spring. This year, Aarsvold says, groups will be able to do even more with the help of the Gender and Sexuality Center.

Anya Galli '08 is one of the co-presidents of the GSC. Raising awareness, she says, is another important goal of "Our Whole Lives." "There are times when LGBTQ individuals, their friends, and allies can feel really isolated, and it's crucial that we feel supported," Galli said. "I also hope that people left with a better understanding of the resources that are available at St. Olaf, especially the Gender and Sexuality Center."

Galli said she feels the St. Olaf community is "a really welcoming place. The problem is that most of the time we don't talk about sexuality: it's talked about in a few classes and student orgs, but not in general. This silence is really dangerous, because it tells people that their voices shouldn't or won't be heard. I think events like this luncheon are really important steps towards breaking that silence."

Students interested in staying informed about gender and sexuality organizations and events on campus can visit the GSC website at Students can also visit Thompson House, the Gender and Sexuality honor house. The co-ed honor house, located on St. Olaf Avenue, provides a library, safe sex resources, free condoms and info about GLBTQA issues, sexual assault, and healthy relationships.

The house hosts weekly meetings of several student organizations, including GLOW, SRH (Students for Reproductive Health) and FFC (Feminists for Change), among others. It is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 4-8 p.m., Thursday during community time and Sunday from 2-4 p.m.

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