LGBTQ+ groups at UC Berkeley celebrate diversity of gender, sexual identities among students

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A McDemott/Courtesy

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This Pride Month, many took to the streets to celebrate their identities and build community — work that is done throughout the year by members of some of UC Berkeley’s LGBTQ+-identifying student organizations.

The LGBTQ+ community at UC Berkeley is vast, said Aviel McDermott, president-elect of student organization Beyond the Binary, in an email. Though larger organizations such as the Gender Equity Resource Center and the Queer Alliance and Resource Center can serve as broad resources, many smaller organizations help establish communities of specific identities.

“(T)here’s always more work to be done in inclusivity and justice for all parts of the LGBTQ+ community,” McDermott said in their email. “But we do have a very active and large LGBTQ+ community, and that gives us the opportunity to make many different spaces for students with many kinds of identities and intersections of identities.”

Beyond the Binary is an organization focused on creating a space for nonbinary students in a world that is “stunningly binary,” according to McDermott.

Ace Space, an organization that supports students identifying as asexual, and Zawadi, a space for Black queer- and trans-identifying students, are other groups working to educate the public about different gender and sexual identities.

“Zawadi means gift in Swahili,” said Kerby Lynch, campus doctoral student and president of Zawadi. “It’s an affirmative space. We want to show these students that they are a gift to the campus.”

Zawadi is both a student group and a politically active organization, with members from other local colleges as well. The organization’s main goals have been fundraising and education, so that it can continue holding speaker series and its members can continue advocating in the broader community, according to Lynch.  

Lynch chose to join Zawadi after the death of campus student Maliq Nixon shortly after she arrived in 2013. According to Lynch, being Black and queer comes with its own set of challenges, as students can feel isolated from many communities they belong to.

“A lot of Black students that are queer and Black don’t get support from the greater Black community as well as the greater campus community,” Lynch said.

According to Mary Kame Ginoza, founder of Ace Space, asexuality is rarely highlighted by big corporate sponsors of Pride Month parades and larger LGBTQ+ organizations. Ginoza founded Ace Space because she was looking for resources as a “new, questioning ace.” When she found none available, she created them herself.

Ginoza said being a member of Ace Space was the first time she ever got to interact with other people who identify as asexual.

“Some of us love the opportunity to stand loud and proud,” McDermott said in their email. “(S)ome of us are overwhelmed by the big pride celebrations but still take comfort in the many small and large displays of solidarity this month, and some of us still struggle to find space and safety even during pride month.”

Contact Madeleine Gregory at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.