For pride month, the LGBT Center at Ohio University holds numerous events to commemorate the increased visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals. Alongside the events catered specifically to pride is a new series of events within the global track of the LGBT Center’s engagement program.
Global Perspectives, which kicked off in May 2021, is a series that serves to educate on the historical and modern experiences of LGBTQ+ topics around the globe. The series has been broken up into six separate events that recognize six continental regions.
Micah McCarey, director of the LGBT Center, said the inspiration behind these events was to acknowledge the different approaches to LGBTQ+ identities around the world.
“It's important to recognize that the US has a very different history with LGBTQ equality than any other parts of the world,” McCarey said. “So we have gone continent by continent, highlighting different human rights issues and histories and linguistic patterns, and a wide range of different countries to increase our understanding of the work that still needs to be done to promote freedom, health care and information.”
Talia Potter, a senior majoring in psychology, is a student staff member for the LGBT Center who is also presenting the Global Perspective events. Potter said the research done for the events focuses heavily on the question of intersectionality across different cultures and geographic locations.
“I was really curious in terms of intersectionality around the world,” Potter said. “Where does this fall in the world? How is it handled? Was the backlash to it seen as a major problem?”
Andy Figueroa, who graduated with a degree in theater from OU in spring 2021, was also a part of forming the Global Perspective series. Figueroa mentioned the purpose of the series is for participants to distance themselves from the American understanding of LGBTQ+ topics, and learn about different approaches around the world.
“It's a way to try to decenter our American lens that we grew up so much with,” Figueroa said. “And so it's less like us imposing our 2021 American (perception of) queerness at its best point of liberation. Instead, it’s to decenter ourselves, and look at different global perspectives with all of this different history and nuance taken into account.”
Throughout the research for the events, McCarey said it’s been surprising to learn about the historical acceptances of gender diverse individuals, particularly in comparison to the contemporary understanding of gender.
“It's really nice to see that some cultures have had an understanding and embracement of queer identities, particularly gender expansive identities from, say, their indigenous populations for significantly longer than the US,” McCarey said. “It’s interesting to recognize that even in the US, Native Americans recognized and honored people who are two-spirited and could understand gender as less of a binary than we tend to think of it now, so there's just a lot of work to be done.”
Potter said the studies of different countries illuminates the privileges present in American society.
“In the US, we westernized a lot of things, we slapped labels on a lot of things, like LGBT,” Potter said. “Everybody else doesn't have a label for it. And, that's a privilege, though, to be able to give yourself the title, and have that title acknowledged. But some people don't have that privilege. And so it makes people aware of what you have versus what somebody else doesn't have.”
The benefit of these discussions, Figueroa said, is to strengthen support and understanding from allies who support LGBTQ+ individuals, as it offers a challenge to their centralized viewpoints.
“I feel that it's important because so much of our work at the LGBT Center is not only support for the people of queer communities, but people who claim to want to be allies,” Figueroa said. “And I think there's inherently always going to be a performance aspect because of the privilege that they hold. It is optional for them to care about these systems that already benefit them. And so, if you really want to support these communities, and really know what you're talking about, you need to decenter yourself. And so having this practice of decentering this very Western America centric narrative, in a safe and brave space of discussion, I think it really helps with building up that allyship tactic.”
For McCarey, the significance of this event series is to offer “cultural humility” to individuals in the majority populations. Through this humbled understanding, McCarey said it will create a sense of community across the globe.
“It's important that we suspend judgment as part of the learning process, and think about how complex international politics and human rights issues really are,” McCarey said. “So I hope that people will come with open minds and curiosity, and a desire to embrace the reality that we are really all globally connected.”