by Kendra Murphy | photos courtesy Stonewall Tigers
The Stonewall Tigers Gender and Sexuality Alliance at the University of Memphis has experienced a significant upswing in membership and University support over the last four years. New leadership revitalized the group and the University’s commitment to non-discrimination and student support intensified. Since then, the Stonewall Tigers have brought a myriad of high-profile LGBTQ+ speakers to campus, such as former White House aide to President Bill Clinton and noted author and political commentator, Keith Boykin, the named plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Course case for marriage equality, Jim Obergefell and Emmy- nominated actress, producer and LGBT+ advocate Laverne Cox. In addition to these speakers, the Stonewall Tigers hold weekly meetings that range from stress-relieving social events to educational programs to political activism discussions open to all University of Memphis students.
Summers have traditionally been time off for college students to rest and recharge, or pick up an extra job, before tackling their next semesters. For Stonewall Tigers board members, though, summer is prime time for planning, recruitment and visibility. “At Stonewall Tigers, we make sure to keep the momentum going by reaching out to students at New Student Orientations held by the University of Memphis and by meeting as an executive board to plan programming for the upcoming academic year,” said Dakota (Cody) Averett, current president of Stonewall Tigers Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
At the end of each spring semester, the Stonewall Tigers vote on their new executive board members for the following academic year. Over the summer, those new board members hold a retreat to clarify language in the Stonewall Tigers GSA Constitution for voting by the general membership, to plan events for the following semesters and to brainstorm new and better ways to advocate for all LGBTQ+ students at the University. This is based on the Stonewall Tigers’ commitment to not just tending to the needs of their official members, but also making sure that LGBTQ+ students who are not members and who may not even yet be out about their status as LGBTQ+ are being protected and treated fairly on campus. Past and current initiatives have included making a public list of all single-stall bathrooms on campus for those students who would be more comfortable using them and making sure that those bathrooms were correctly marked as unisex, creating informational pamphlets about LGBTQ+ rights and facilitating Safe Zone training for faculty, staff and students.
Beyond the campus, the Stonewall Tigers have also sought out community ties to extend their advocacy. In February, past president Rachel Crow, current president Dakota (Cody) Averett, faculty advisor Kendra Murphy and Graduate Assistant for Inclusion and Sexual Diversity in the Office of Multicultural Affairs Christy New presented on the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference (MBLGTACC) on the changes, accomplishments and setbacks the group has experienced over the last several years in a presentation titled “Increasing Visibility: Lessons Learned in LGBT+ Advocacy.”
There are lots of great events and activities in the works for the 2019-2020 academic year. Anyone interested in becoming involved or learning more can email stonewalltigersgsa@ gmail.com