Resource Roundup: OutGrads and the LGBTQ Center
Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School
As a queer graduate student, it can be difficult to find other people who understand your experiences and accept you fully, exactly as you are. Last Thursday I was lucky enough to find that space at Home Base Tavern at the LGBTQ Center’s OutGrads Cocktail Hour event. Immediately upon arrival, I was greeted by smiling faces who knew exactly why I was there and were glad to meet me. I played pool with some new queer friends, drank a beverage served to me by a mohawked bartender, and discovered common friends and connections. I left that evening feeling warm and fuzzy inside (and excited for the next event!).
If you too are a LGBTQ+-identifying graduate student, OutGrads might be the perfect opportunity for you. By forming connections with other queer Bearcats as well as giving back to the community and developing professionally, you can embrace and celebrate queer pride with people who truly understand what it means. I sat down with Gabrielle Nichols, first year women's, gender and sexuality studies master's student and Graduate Assistant for the LGBTQ+ Center, to get more details on OutGrads and other resources that the Center has to offer.
“OutGrads is first and foremost a program meant to connect queer or LGBTQ+-identified graduate and professional students so they can come together, form community, and kind of get out of their own master’s [or doctoral] programs,” Gabrielle tells me. “[Grad school can be] kind of draining and you can feel alone in it, but just being able to meet people that are part of your community helps you through that.” Gabrielle and Chad Freeman, director of the LGBTQ Center conceived of the idea after recognizing the need for graduate-specific queer resources and conducting research regarding the types of programming other graduate student associations and higher educational institutions across the country offer their students. An important caveat regarding OutGrads is that, despite having “out” in the name, the group is open to students at all points in the coming out process. “We want people that haven’t made that journey yet, or even if they don’t ever decide to, just to come and create community and know they’re not alone,” says Gabrielle. And if you want to come out eventually but aren’t quite ready yet, OutGrads could be a good stepping stone. “Possibility modeling,” says Gabrielle. “You’re seeing people who are out and having relatively happy lives and being confident in themselves and just trying to better themselves by coming to school.”
OutGrads is a new addition to the LGBTQ Center’s programming, having kicked off in February with the cocktail hour. Moving forward, Gabrielle and OutGrads will offer monthly programming for queer grads, ranging from social gatherings to professional engagement and volunteer opportunities. In the future, Gabrielle is hoping to put together a mixer with queer faculty members as well as arrange volunteer events with community partners in the greater Cincinnati area, including TreeHouse Cincinnati, Human Rights Campaign Cincinnati, GLSEN Cincinnati, PFLAG of Greater Cincinnati, and Love Must Win. OutGrads’ March event is a game night that will take place on March 23 from 5-7PM in the LGBTQ Center in Steger 565; all LGBTQ+- identifying graduate and professional students are welcome to attend.
The LGBTQ Center has a range of other programming of interest to the queer grad community. THRIVE, a one-on-one mentorship opportunity for UC students new to Cincinnati, is in its current form a primarily undergraduate program, but Gabrielle is looking to expand its reach to more of the graduate population. Applications to serve a mentor will be released in mid to late March and will close in the summer, at which time mentors will be paired with mentees. Beyond THRIVE, the LGBT Center also offers a range of affinity groups for specific populations, including bi/pan-identifying students, queer religious students, trans- and gender non-conforming students, and QTPOC students. They also offer a general queer affinity group called “What’s the Tea?” that involves discussions of pop culture as well as mental health. Past LGBTQ Center events have included Out and Proud on the Lawn for National Coming Out Day, as well as Big Queer Welcome, a yearly orientation celebration in August. Additionally, the LGBTQ Center is excited to participate in Cincinnati’s Pride Festival this year, after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. The Center will be seeking volunteers to help with the event, where they will be both marching in the parade and staffing a booth, so keep an eye on their CampusLink page or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more information throughout the year.
Whether you’d like to volunteer, network, or meet new queer friends, the LGBTQ Center has got you covered. Join OutGrads monthly meetings for a great chance to meet people who understand the unique joys and challenges of being a queer graduate or professional student. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re glad to meet you!