The Collegian
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Common Ground teaches LGBTQ history, culture during UR Comes Out

Throughout October, University of Richmond's Office of Common Ground has been busy hosting its annual UR Comes Out: a series of speakers, receptions and interactive workshops celebrating LGBTQ History Month on campus.

October is recognized as LGBTQ History Month in the United States, said Ted Lewis, associate director of LGBTQ campus life. Richmond's month-long celebration began Oct. 1 when Judy Shepard spoke on campus as part of the One Book, One Richmond program, he said. She is the mother of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in October 1998.

Various academic departments and campus organizations have collaborated with One Book, One Richmond this semester to organize programs around The Laramie Project, a play about the reaction to Shepard's murder. Approximately 250 people attended the speech, which was great for a campus this size, Lewis said.

Other speakers throughout the month included members of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a multiracial grassroots organization of LGBTQ people working in the South.

Senior Erik Lampmann participated in two training sessions during SONG's visit on racial justice and movement building, he said. Organization staff members Suzanne Pharr and Paulina Helm-Hernandez delivered a keynote speech Oct. 22 on LGBTQ culture and histories of resistance in the South.

"These experiences with SONG helped me to better understand the legacy of social justice organizing in the South," Lampmann said. "They were fantastic motivators for the difficult work so many of us do each day."

On Oct. 19, Common Ground partnered with the Cultural Advisor Alternatives program to host its "Big Queer Party" in the Tyler Haynes Commons. Every weekend, the group sponsors late-night, alcohol-free activities for students.

"We know party spaces at this school can often be hard for same-sex couples," Lewis said, "so we're trying to create a space where that's the norm. If you were to see two people of the same sex dancing, it wouldn't be odd or weird."

Although October is coming to an end, Common Ground will host four more programs celebrating LGBTQ History Month. On Oct. 28, free HIV testing will be available in the Commons between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Last year, approximately 150 students attended, Lewis said.

On Oct. 29, Common Ground will host its monthly Safe Zone luncheon at noon, which will feature coming out stories from LGBTQ students on campus. Later that day, Richmond's Equality Alliance will host a panel discussion on same-sex marriage in Virginia. The discussion will feature James Parish from Equality Virginia and Claire Guthrie Gastanaga from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

Finally, the Lesbian Safer Sex Workshop discussed the risks of HPV as well as safe-sex practices Oct. 30.

Although these programs are primarily geared toward the LGBTQ community on campus, they are open to all students and allies, Lewis said. Regardless of one's sexual orientation, these activities are an educational opportunity for all, he said.

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Lampmann said this month of programming was Common Ground's contribution to the ongoing work of building resilient and inclusive communities for LGBTQ people across issues of gender, sex, race, ethnicity and class.

"Our programming for UR Comes Out and LGBTQ History Month helps build on that momentum to really engage the increasingly diverse and integrated campus community," Lampmann said. "We are excited at the progress UR has made in these past few years, but also want to acknowledge the continued discrimination faced by queer people on campus, in the community and around the world."

For more information about UR Comes Out and the Office of Common Ground, visit commonground.richmond.edu.

Contact reporter Gaby Calabrese at gaby.calabrese@richmond.edu

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