After having been featured on Genderfork, a community blog supporting identities across the gender spectrum, and The Bilerico Project, a blog for LGBTQ topics, politics and pop culture, Zach Schudson PO ’13—username debaser9779—has over 65,000 views on YouTube for his acoustic covers of mainstream pop songs. Whether he’s critiquing heteronormativity to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” or gender neutralizing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Schudson uses this medium to engage with a worldwide audience on queer issues and theory.
Before his YouTube debut, Schudson’s inaugural foray into queer activism occurred on campus during his first year at Pomona College. At that time he started working for the National Marriage Boycott, a youth-led grassroots movement whose goal is to promote equality by pledging not to marry until there is full federal marriage equality regardless of sexual orientation.
The mission of the National Marriage Boycott reflects the goals of the more widespread marriage equality movement for same-sex couples happening in the U.S. Currently, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont can grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The focus on advancing efforts for marriage equality for same-sex couples in state legislatures and the international media has continued to gain momentum in recent weeks. Last month Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed a marriage equality bill into law, the Maryland House passed a marriage equality bill and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California unconstitutional.
However, Schudson’s political ideology has changed significantly since his first year at Pomona.
“[Marriage equality] is bringing gays and lesbians, and specifically gays and lesbians and not other queer folks, into the fold of the nuclear family and not really questioning why it is that we think the nuclear family is deserving of all these privileges,” Schudson said. “There are more expansive ways to look at relationship structures and family structures and the way the government interacts with them that the marriage equality fight tends to ignore.”
Shaped by his involvement in various queer communities and organizations on campus, Schudson’s current queer activism focuses less on issues considered by many to be key LGBTQ concerns, such as marriage. Instead, Schudson takes an intersectional approach that seeks to build bridges across various identities of race, gender and sexuality to address a wide variety of issues not necessarily understood as common LGBTQ issues.
“Most of the work I’ve been initiating has been really focused around what I consider to be activism, the activism of support, the activism of education,” Schudson said. “It’s an activist statement to show radical love for a community that has not received that.”
Schudson currently plans events on campus as a staff member at the Queer Resource Center (QRC), a 7C resource center serving students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex as well as allies (LGBTQQIA) and other non-normative genders and sexualities. He is also a peer mentor for the Queer, Questioning and Allied Mentor Program (QQAMP), as well as a member of the student group Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault.
“In QQAMP the number one thing on a mentee’s mind isn’t necessarily ‘I’m queer and that is the only thing I’m thinking about,’” Schudson said. “There are a lot of other things that are relevant in people’s lives that are connected to their queerness, and not everyone in that mentor program is queer.”
Another way Schudson applies an intersectional framework when engaging in queer activism is through collaboration with other groups on campus in planning events. For example, last year Schudson helped plan Spectrum, an on-campus dance party sponsored by QQAMP, the Students of Color Alliance (SOCA), the Asian American Mentor Program (AAMP), the Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA), Rare Diamonds—a group of self-identified women of color—and the Women’s Union.
“[Spectrum] was so successful because it brought a bunch of different communities together and recognized the ways in which there was a need for safe spaces for queer and/or students of color,” Schudson said. “The intersectional approach becomes necessary, and it’s something the QRC tries to practice with everything we do in understanding that there are so very rarely isolated LGBT issues.”