story and photos by Nick Lingerfelt
At the gay bar Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, during the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, LGBTQ activists fought back against a police raid to run them out of their safe place. Today, Stonewall Tigers at the University of Memphis honors this event by naming their genders and sexuality alliance after them and carrying on their legacy of standing up against bigotry.
Rachel Crow, president of Stonewall Tigers, said the club tries to be a “catch all experience” for LGBTQ students and their allies. She is involved in several organizations on the campus and represents Stonewall Tigers to all of them.
“I’m a little bit of everywhere, and I make sure to put Stonewall everywhere I go,” Crow said.
A genders and sexualities alliance, or GSA for short, is a student-run club in an educational institution that provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and work to end homophobia and transphobia. The acronym used to mean gay-straight alliance, but this has been changed to reflect the diverse communities of genders and sexualites prevalent in these clubs.
Crow said one thing she would like people to know Stonewall Tigers is there and always growing.
“We’re a pretty small organization right now, we’re about 20-something members strong at this moment, but that doesn’t include supporters and that doesn’t include people who want to be involved but can’t come,” Crow said. “The LGBT community is so big and so diverse. We can’t properly show it in 15-20 people.”
Stonewall Tigers meets weekly to discuss the events of the week and educate each other about what is
going on in the LGBTQ community. This year the group planned its 2nd annual LGBTQ+ Week to
bring awareness to gender and sexual minorities to the University of Memphis campus community.
Crow said she would like people who lie at “intersections,” or being a part of multiple marginalized identities, should feel comfortable coming to Stonewall Tigers as a safe space to learn and grow.
“We want you to be safe here,” Crow said.
Rochelle London, a member of Stonewall Tigers, discovered the group at New Student Orientation at the University of Memphis.
“They had this big rainbow sign and bright smiles, so I walked up to their table where I met Rachel, our current president,” London said. “She was extremely friendly and just had this super cool aura about her, and I joined shortly after.”
London went to a religious high school, so she mainly joined to be around other LGBTQ people. She said Stonewall Tigers is now like a family to her, with much of her free time dedicated to the group.
“I met my current partner through the organization, and I’ve gained tons of leadership experience working with them,” London said.
Kasey Turner, one of Stonewall Tigers’ members, said she learned about Stonewall Tigers through a gay friend she knew in high school.
“Stonewall Tigers is like second family to me where I can be my true self,” Turner said.
Turner said being a part of Stonewall Tigers has helped her grow positively as a person.
“Before them I just went from point A, to point B, to point C and repeat,” Turner said. “Stonewall showed me a good side of the human race. It’s an environment where I am encouraged to make friends, be involved and become a leader.”
Turner said she is almost certain she would not have grown without being involved in the club.
“I changed from a scared little closed freshman to a moderate little ‘door cracked open’ one,” Turner said.