This semester a new group called In Living Queer has formed on campus, founded by students who were previously members of Mouthing Off!, Mills’ LGBTQ group. In Living Queer sprang from a need for a space where students of color could discuss the intersectionality of their identities, club founders said, and began to gather urgency last year.
In Living Queer is intended to provide a safe space for students of color who are LGBTQ-identified to talk about their experiences, outside of the Mouthing Off! space. Initially concerns on the now defunct Mills College Confessions Facebook page revolved around the racial divide that might occur between the two groups.
“In relation to the Mills College Queer People of Color page, why do we need to separate ourselves from ‘the white people.’ Isn’t this f—- Mills? Why can’t we just be a group of queer people who are queer? F—— ridiculous,” said an anonymous post on the page.
The only response to the post was from Arianna Zoraida Cruz-Sellu, now the president of In Living Queer.
“As somebody who has struggled with who I am as well as the discrimination…and disrespect that I have felt because of being a queer woman of color I find it kind of frustrating that you would deny any Mills student the right to have a safe space to express themselves,” Cruz-Sellu said in reply on the post.
Some students spoke out about the controversy that they became aware of due to the Mills College Confessions page. Some said they felt a racial divide would not occur between Mouthing Off! and In Living Queer, and that members of the groups will collaborate. In Living Queer is still in the early stages of planning activities for this year.
“I don’t think there will be a racial divide; I think students are allowed to be apart of both groups,” Mouthing Off! member Carter Steinmann said. “I think both groups are welcome to allies as well. If someone chooses to attend In Living Queer meetings that is their perogative and I hope members of Mouthing Off! can respect that.”
Sophomore Larri Ford said that both groups will be discussing some of the same LBGTQ issues, but now that students that used to be part of Mouthing Off! have found a new space to discuss their intersectionality, a divide will occur.
“In Mouthing Off! there was no discussion of racial issues. Now that I think about it, there will be a divide. We will both be fighting the same thing, but I don’t think there will be controversy,” Ford said.
Skylar Crownover, president of Mouthing Off! does admit that he is concerned there will be a racial divide between the students that are members of both groups, but he wants to make it clear that people can prosper in both groups.
“If you are a part of In Living Queer you are always welcome in Mouthing Off,” Crownover said.
Cruz-Sellu said she believes that there will not be a racial divide between the two groups and is looking at the development of the new group as a growing opportunity.
“I don’t think it’s a racial divide but more of an opportunity to open people’s eyes to privilege in certain situations, such as white privilege,” Cruz-Sellu said in an interview. “There are a lot more aspects when it comes to intersectionality when it comes to being a woman of color.”
Marlene Iyemura, an officer for both In Living Queer and Mouthing Off! reiterated the fact that In Living Queer will be an additional space, not a rivalry to Mouthing Off!
“I think it will only be an issue if people make it an issue. We just wanted another space, not a racial divide. Mills needed a club for women of color who are queer,” Iyemura said. “I personally don’t plan to pick and choose, I am an officer for both and I think both clubs are very important.”
Cruz-Sellu emphasized that In Living Queer is primarily for queer students of color.
“Allies need to understand their place in our space. We do allow white allies with an understanding [of] what the space is specifically for. If you do join, you must understand your privilege in our space,” Cruz-Sellu said. “We don’t want our members to feel like they are being judged or feel like someone is exercising their privilege over them.”
Alicia McDaniels, the accountant for both Mouthing Off! and In Living Queer, said that In Living Queer is in no way trying to divide students of color and white students. As a member of Mouthing Off!, she said she felt like race was not the main priority during meetings, and wanted a safe space to talk about these feelings. She said that In Living Queer does that for her.
“You do not have to be a woman of color to join. All are welcome,” McDaniels said. “We are in no way trying to cause a split, we want people from Mouthing Off! to join our group.”
However, Cruz-Sellu said that because of their white privilege, she is conflicted about white allies who want to enter their space.
“I’m torn in that I want people who identify themselves as allies to be allowed into the space but I want them to realize that you can identify yourself as an ally but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are one,” Cruz said.
Joyelle Baker, vice president of In Living Queer, agreed with Cruz but said she also feels strongly that allies are appreciated and are not disrespectful.
“I am very big on ally-ship, but I do agree with Arianna [regarding] what it means to be an ally in that space… we want our space to be respected,” Baker said. “I don’t think white allies showing up is disrespectful. I think if a person is a true ally, I would feel appreciated and feel like I have a support system.”
Baker also praises former president of Mouthing Off!, Natalie Meier, junior and current The Campanil News Editor, for her inclusivity of intersectionality conversations that occurred In Mouthing Off! meetings last year.
“I think Mouthing Off! has done a great job in being more aware and inclusive as the conversation has come up about intersectionality. When Natalie Meier was president, she was aware and helpful and she wanted to know what to do,” Baker said. “With that being said, I want to be apart of both In Living Queer and Mouthing Off,”
Crownover emphasized that the groups are on good terms, and that In Living Queer forming is an great opportunity.
“Unfortunately I think there was a lot of controversy around In Living Queer, starting last semester, due to miscommunication via Mills College Confessions, but I don’t expect there should be nearly as much, if any, controversy this semester as long as the student body knows that [between] Mouthing Off! and In Living Queer… there is not a rivalry,” Crownover said. “We can be partners, we can collaborate, we can co-sponsor events, and it is a beautiful opportunity to educate the student body.”