Of Pitzer College’s thirty-one acres, not one has been designated as an queer-focused space–until now.
According to Finn Williams PZ ‘17, the Lavender Resource Room seeks to obtain justice for Pitzer’s queer community – queer being an umbrella term for individuals who reject heteronormative, traditional notions of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Lavender Resource Room is located on the first floor of Mead Hall, one of Pitzer’s residence halls. While the Lavender Resource Room has yet to officially open, students, particularly those who identify with the queer community, are welcome to utilize the space at their discretion.
Spearheaded by the Rainbow People Collective, Pitzer College’s queer justice organization, the Lavender Resource Room is an entirely student-run project. Rainbow People co-presidents Williams and Cliff Clifford PZ ‘17, along with co-officer Keanan Gottlieb PZ ‘17, approached the Pitzer College Student Senate in March 2016 in hopes of securing a space for Pitzer’s queer community. According to Williams, after some slight hesitancy from the Senate, the first floor living room of Mead Hall was transformed into the Lavender Resource Room.
In addition to providing a physical space devoted to queer justice, the Lavender Resource Room will host Pitzer Advocates for Queer Survivors of Sexual Assault, where queer survivors of sexual violence can receive necessary psychological assistance and emotional support. Considering the prevalence of heteronormativity in sexual assault rhetoric, Williams and Rainbow People said that they aim to shed light on one of the less-discussed aspects of sexual assault.
The Rainbow People will also use the Lavender Resource Room as a means of raising awareness about queer-related issues. According to Williams, the Lavender Resource Room will host speakers and panel discussions on topics ranging from “coming out” to friends and family, to queer representation in mass media. The Lavender Resource Room will also hold movie nights–airing films that depict queer history and narratives.
Through the Lavender Resource Room, the Rainbow People also aspire to embrace more intersectional aspects of the queer community. Williams said that they are committed to working with on-campus minority groups such as the Black Student Union (BSU), the Mixed Identity Exchange (MIX), the Latinx Student Union (LSU) and the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) in various Lavender Resource Room programs. In doing so, Williams expressed optimism that all members of the queer community, regardless of socio-cultural background, can find a sanctuary in the Lavender Resource Room.
According to Elliot Joyce PZ ‘19, an active Rainbow People member, the group plans to poll Lavender Resource Room visitors to gather feedback about future events and programming.
Organizations such as the Claremont Independent often argue that spaces similar to the Lavender Resource Room foster divisiveness and segregation, however.
“It is not about exclusion or segregation,” Williams said. “It is about justice for an oppressed, marginalized community in a world that is violently opposed to our existence.”
Desiree Ross, the residential dean of Mead Hall and self-identified queer woman of color, said that the Lavender Resource Room is “about being able to go into a space where you have love and authenticity.”
While the Rainbow People celebrate the opening of the Lavender Resource Room, some members said that the battle for queer justice is far from over.
“Pitzer often puts the responsibility of change on the LGBT community, which is not really fair…considering we are marginalized to begin with,” Joyce said.
Williams and Joyce expressed hope that the Pitzer administration would increase the funding for affinity groups and streamline the process through which these groups can obtain physical spaces. They also recommended additional training for faculty and staff with regards to queer issues.
Joyce said that there is a “disconnect with students” because “many [professors] are older, white, and cisgender.”
In order to foster an atmosphere of queer awareness and sensitivity, Joyce said that he hoped that Pitzer will hire more queer-identifying faculty and staff.
This article was revised Nov. 1.
Update: the Lavender Resource Room hosted its open house Tuesday, Nov. 1.