Fairfield hosts STAG Talks (Sexuality, Technology, and Gender)
In honor of LGBTQ+ History Month, the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program hosted a new event, STAG Talks (Sexuality, Technology, and Gender) where students and faculty shared their personal stories on sexual and gender identity. An open question and answer session followed the presentations.
Dr. Anna Lawrence, associate professor of history and co-director of the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program in the College of Arts & Sciences, said, “We’ve always held an event in honor of LGBTQ+ History Month, but this year we wanted to do something different, and make it more interactive and activist oriented. In this way, it would reflect the activist work of the national LGBTQ+ community, especially on issues of gay marriage and trans visibility.”
Dr. Erica Hartwell, assistant professor of marriage & family therapy in the Graduate School of Education and one of the organizers of the event, came up with the idea of doing something similar to the popular “TED Talks.” Dr. Lawrence said, “STAG Talks is a way to showcase the technological savvy of Fairfield’s faculty and students. Also, by gathering both faculty and student voices in this public forum, we highlighted the broadness of the University’s LGBTQ+ community and allies.”
Four speakers delivered short presentations to those attending the event. They included Dr. Kate Fortmueller, visiting assistant professor of film, television, and media arts; Megan Hamilton ’17 secretary of Alliance (a group for LGBTQ+ students and straight allies, which promotes diversity and acceptance on campus); Dr. David Gudelunas, associate professor of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of communication; and Alexandra Cordero-Villafuerte ’19 a first-year student and ally.
Dr. Fortmuller spoke on how LGBTQ+ families were and were not represented in the media when she was young. Heather Has Two Mommies, a 1989 book, was one of the first children’s books that showed an untraditional family. Using popular shows like Cagney and Lacy and Full House, Dr. Fortmuller also noted that even if there wasn’t clear representation in popular media, people looked at untraditional families and interpreted them with a heteronormative view.
Megan Hamilton, secretary of Alliance, spoke about coming out and how popular culture paints a false image of it. “Coming out is not like in the movies,” she said. Some of the other truths that Hamilton shared included:
- Coming out doesn’t happen all at once (i.e. Caitlin Jenner and Ellen DeGeneres). Rather, it is a conscious choice that people continually make every day
- Coming out is different for everyone
- People should make the choice to come out with their own health and safety in mind
Dr. David Gudelunas began his presentation by recalling that when he began teaching at Fairfield ten years ago, a forum on marriage equality on campus was canceled due to political pressure. “Look at how far we’ve come. Today, talking about marriage equality is so common, we can do it in the middle of the BCC.”
Dr. Gudelunas spoke on how the media presents a skewed image of sex and sexuality and that gay people in particular have been given stereotypical roles. “I’ve noticed that we talk about sex in useless ways a lot and useful ways not a lot. Popular culture lies.” He concluded by charting how often gay characters on TV were introduced as a problem and had story lines frequently ending in suicide –giving a terrible message to young people about the dangers of being gay.
Alexandra Cordero-Villafuerte, a first year student, shared tips on how to be an ally to LGBTQ+ people, or any minority. “Minority groups on campus can easily be marginalized,” she said. “Even if you’re not a member of the group, you can advocate and support them.”
Top tips for allies:
- Offer a safe space to those who want to talk about their gender and sexuality
- Be open to listening to what people choose to share with you
- Think about what you say before you say it (people don’t mean to be offensive, but it can happen)
- Stand up for minority people and for their rights
“At the end of the day we’re all equal,” concluded Cordero-Villafuerte, “Whether you’re a member of a minority group or an ally, by standing together we’ll be a much better community.”
Pictured in lower right side photo: Alexandra Cordero-Villafuerte '19 speaking to Fairfield community at first ever STAG Talks event.