William Jewell College’s “QUILTBAG”

Samantha Fulte, QUILTBAG Treasurer and Morgan Allen, President greeted first year students at the college's orientation fair in August. Photo provided by Sam Fulte.

by Morgan Allen
Journalism Intern

William Jewell College’s LGBT+ organization, QUILTBAG, has undergone structural and organizational transitions for the 2016-2017 school year. QUILTBAG, which stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual and Gay/Genderqueer, used to be SAGE - Straights and Gays for Equality.

The name change was the first step towards building a more diverse presence on the Liberty, Mo. campus. Previous President Brett Stone officially changed the name in the fall of 2015 to provide a more welcoming environment for queer students. The current cabinet - Morgan Allen, President; Bruce Rash, Vice President; Trevor Nicks, Secretary; Sam Fulte, Treasurer - believes that the new name fits with the organization’s main goals, of which there are four:

1. Increase LGBTQ visibility on campus

2. Provide a safe environment for LGBTQ students

3. Promote LGBTQ issues

4. Provide resources for students of all identities.

The group started the year off by meeting with first year students to explain the safe environment on the campus for LGBT students, telling freshmen about their rights. One major project undertaken by the club was the implementation of gender-neutral/non-conforming housing for students who are in transition or identify outside of the binary. The organization also worked on making a bathroom in each building on campus gender neutral.

“It's been refreshing to see things that QUILTBAG started last year, like making all the campus's single-person restrooms gender-neutral and getting a hallway in one of the residence buildings that isn't gender-coded,” Rash said. “Working to build that community and those safe spaces is what really drives my involvement for QUILTBAG, and I hope that the community that we build this year will carry forward next year and the years after, after the leadership changes. Because students are always moving in and out.”

QUILTBAG previously acted as a social club for LGBT students, but the organization is more invested in actively changing the campus and becoming a resource for students.

“I am invested in QUILTBAG because I don't want other students who identify as queer to feel like they are different (in a negative way) from all the other students on campus,” said Fulte. “I want them to know that QUILTBAG has a presence on campus so they know that there is always someone to go talk to or go to for help if they ever need anything.”

The cabinet made their first major change together with the implementation of designated Resident Assistants in each first year and upperclassmen dormitories who are trained to help residents through the coming out or questioning process. The act came after the cabinet discussed their own experiences with coming out on campus and resources that they wished were available.

“I didn't enter Jewell very comfortable with my orientation. I'd known I was gay since the age of 12 or so, but having grown up in a town of 2,500 in rural Missouri I had a lot of internalized homophobia.” Nicks exclaimed.

“The whole mess of self-identifying was challenging and painfully emotional for me. I think, in part, because I never had or would let myself have role models. That leads to part of why I am so invested in QUILTBAG; if it's at all possible, I want my visibility to help make coming out easier for others.”

“I still sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about my orientation with some of my friends so it is nice to be able to get involved with a group of people who understand,” Fulte added. “The biggest improvement I have seen is visibility. When I came to Jewell last year, I had no idea there was an LGBTQ+ group on campus. Now, I see people all over campus with QUILTBAG buttons and as a group, we are more involved with activities visible with the entire student body.”

Moving forward, each cabinet member has a special event in mind for the organization. Nicks and Fulte, who are both STEM majors, are most excited about the “Out in STEM” conference some members will be going to in March 2017. The group is also planning on making a group visit to see Fun Home in the spring. Lastly, QUILTBAG will be attending Oklahomans For Equality’s Annual Gala, meeting LGBT leaders and other college students in the Midwest.

“I am very proud of the institutional change which Annie [Murphey, 2015-2016 Vice President] and last year's cabinet started and I'm hopeful that we can continue to make lasting change on campus,” Nicks said.

“I am hoping that this year, QUILTBAG grows as an organization and is able to be a caring and fun environment for all of its members,” Fulte added.

QUILTBAG plans for the year are lofty, but rooted in years of progress made by former members. The organization meets bi-weekly and discusses LGBT issues and plans activities and service projects for the community in the greater Kansas City area.

Copyright 2016 The Gayly – November 18, 2016 @ 2 p.m.