On a cold Wednesday morning of Nov. 13, the reading room on the highest floor of the Jackson library had coffee and warm snacks waiting for students. On a table are supplies to make buttons with the signature flags of the LGBT+ identities. Several books lay out, resources for those same students.
The Jackson Library had hosted its first Queer Cafe that day at 10 am. The event was open and meant to be accommodating to student schedules allowing them to come and go freely. The event’s creator, Melody Rood, intended for this to be a safe space for LGBT+ students on campus.
“It’s incredibly important to have spaces like this for queer students,” Rood said. Rood and her fellow data librarian and GIS, Jo Klein, decided to host this event after reading about the New York Public Library’s similar event on National Coming Out Day.
“We couldn’t do it in time for [Coming Out Day], but we wanted to get the students [here] before Thanksgiving break and finals,” Rood said.
Care was taken to make sure that the event would be a safe space for closeted students as well as those that are out about their identities.
“[When I was proposing this event] I was taking into account which floor wasn’t used all that often, and that we couldn’t guarantee safety,” Rood said. “There are glass walls to this room, meaning that people can see who is inside.”
One of the protocols in place to prevent the accidental outings of LGBT+ students was that allies and non-queer individuals were asked politely to avoid this outing.
“It’s important to know when to sit things out and know your place,” Rood said. “I asked that allies not come, as it was important to make this a safe place for queer people and not have straight people here.”
Activities for the students to bond over included making buttons to declare pride in their identities.
“We were doing activities in a crafting event earlier and we noticed that the buttons did really well,” Klein said. “There were other activities that we had in mind for this that we ran there, like weaving, but those didn’t do as well so we didn’t include them.”
Klein also included a QR code for a Queering the Map link online. “It shows important places to queer people in the area,” Klein said. “Users add to it and it can be stuff like, ‘I had my first kiss here’ or ‘I came out to my parents there.’”
The main intent was to show that there was a place for queer people on campus at UNCG.
“It’s hard,” Rood said, speaking on her own experience. “It can be incredibly isolating, and it’s important to know that there is a community here and that you do belong.”
Klein seconded this notion. “[All queer students here] should know that they are not alone,” She continued.
To help, the librarians added several books and resources to help queer students. “We have a mix of fiction and non-fiction,” Rood said. “We have the most recent materials we have, as a lot has changed and materials can become out-dated quickly.”
Rood and Klein determined the event to be a success. “We’re definitely looking into doing more of these events-we have nothing set in stone on the calendar yet, but we’re certainly going to do more.”