The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

LGBTQ holds first bus tour of Richmond

The first LGBTQ history bus tour of Richmond hosted by the university rolled through the downtown streets Saturday. The tour was led by Beth Marschak, Richmond alumna and author of "Lesbian and Gay Richmond."

Glyn Hughes, the director of Common Ground, helped organize the tour. Common Ground is an organization whose members work to build community among people on campus, and who have become the de facto representatives of the LGBTQ community on campus, Hughes said. Marschak is a longtime activist for feminism and LGBTQ acceptance in Richmond, Hughes said.

Twenty students, faculty and staff members attended the tour, said Erik Lampmann, the LGBTQ program student assistant for Common Ground. The group visited areas of downtown Richmond including the Fan, Shockoe Bottom and Broad Street, he said.

Junior Christine Parker said the Gay Community Center of Richmond was one of the most interesting sites on the tour. "They offer some great classes, discussion groups and events," she said. "They also have a thrift store whose proceeds go toward supporting community organizations."

The tour also reached such sites as the Jefferson Hotel and the Quaker Meeting House, Lampmann said, which were significant to the LGBTQ community. Lewis Ginter and his partner, the richest men in the city after Richmond was burned when Confederate troops left during the Civil War, helped reconstruct most of the city's buildings, including the Jefferson Hotel, Lampmann said. The Quaker Meeting House is where the first same-sex marriages were performed in Richmond during the 1990s, he said.

It is important that the group got to see such sites as Libby Hill Park and St. John's Church, which were not symbolic of the LGBTQ community, but represented the greater Richmond community, he said. "It highlights multiple dimensions of people and things we already know about," he said.

Part of the politics of the LGBTQ community hinges on invisibility, which is a reason for the metaphor of being in the closet, Hughes said. Being out about a person's sexuality still means being vulnerable, he said. The bus tour was one opportunity for making LGBTQ history, which has largely been invisible, visible, he said. The tour was inspired by the Richmond Promise, the university's strategic plan, and its emphasis on campus community as well as that community's connection to the broader world, he said.

"I chose to go on the tour because I wanted to connect with a larger community than that which we have on campus," Parker said. "The Richmond bubble can be a bit stifling at times, so it was great to be able to see the bigger context, both geographically and historically, of my community."

Back on campus, students can get involved with the LGBTQ community by registering for Safe Zone workshops through the office of Common Ground, Lampmann said. During the workshops, which more than 200 students have attended, students are instructed about how to best become allies to the LGBTQ community, he said.

"This discussion about history continues," Hughes said. A Safe Zone brown bag lunch discussion will be led by Ladelle McWhorter, a Richmond philosophy and women's studies professor, on Nov. 28.

Contact staff writer Katie Toussaint at katie.toussaint@richmond.edu

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