Stony Brook’s LGBTQ* Center hosted “Queer Grounds: Open Mic and Coffeehouse” on Friday to showcase the artistic talents of the university’s LGBTQ* community.
The night was marked by music, art, laughter and fun as the center celebrates its second anniversary since opening March 8, 2018.
“I was blown away,” second-year grad student and LGBTQ* graduate coordinator, Alexander Remey, said. Remey was one of the night’s many talents, taking the stage to play three original songs. It had been six years since Remey’s last performance. “I hadn’t performed for a very long time, and this center provided access for me.”
This event was held only days before students at Yeshiva University in Manhattan filed complaints against the school, which claim that the university refused to authorize the establishment of a gay-rights organization. Another school in Utah saw protestors rally outside their student center when a statement was released by a school official labeling same-sex behavior as ‘not compatible’ with the school’s Honor Code.
Prior to the night’s beginning, the Center’s Assistant Director, Chris Tanaka, announced that the floor was open to anyone looking to exhibit their skills. Tanaka also reminded the room that this was a safe space for everyone — no matter their association — to feel comfortable.
“It was my first time performing, so I had a lot of nervous energy,” Jeriann Ramilo, a junior biochemistry major, said following her singing performance. “But everyone was warm and welcoming, and we all had a lot of fun.”
“I’ve never been here before, but I heard my friend was performing and I had to come,” 21-year-old junior biology student, Miranda Jacobsen, said. She attended the event alongside Ramilo to support her performance. “It wasn’t just singing, there was art, comedy, poetry … it was a good representation of [the community’s] diversity.”
Many performances spoke on the personal battles faced by members of the LGBTQ* community, as well as experiences with race, gender and sexual orientation. Through art, individuals were able to discuss the realities of being underrepresented and misunderstood.
“My act was about my experience with assimilation,” staff member and 22-year-old senior biology with U4 standing, Marvin Paul, said. His performance incorporated spoken-word with improvisation to communicate his struggles in high school with race and sexuality. “Growing up in a primarily white area, I struggled to find my identity. I realized I wasn’t being truthful. Here [at the LGBTQ* Center] people can share similar experiences.”
Each performance was finished with ecstatic cheers and encouragement, and food and beverages were provided throughout the event for all attendees. Performers were given rewards for completing their acts, including a notebook and an LGBTQ* t-shirt.
The center also hosts several affinity group meetings weekly, which provide safe spaces for the gender-queer/nonconforming. Although closed over spring break, group meetings at the Center — located above West Side Dining — resume March 23.