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'It’s not a representation that I see very often': Queer FallFest welcomes LGBTQ+ students

Students attend the second annual Queer Fall Fest inside the Campus on Monday, August 21, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Maeson Wagner.

The Anne Queen Lounge, inside the Campus Y, became a bustling room of students and tables on Monday as the UNC LGBTQ Center hosted its second annual Queer Fall Fest — an offshoot of FallFest.

FallFest, hosted by the Carolina Union, aims to welcome students to UNC and its variety of student organizations. But Queer Fall Fest specifically focuses on advertising groups tailored to LGBTQ+ students.

The annual event is an opportunity for LGBTQ+ and student allies to connect with LGBTQ+ clubs and organizations on campus. The center worked to attract student attendees who were interested in social equity for individuals of marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities.

Mihika Gupta, a Queer Fall Fest attendee, said it was remarkable to see a collection of clubs and organizations reflecting herself and the rest of the queer community.

“It’s not a representation that I see very often,” she said. 

Estella Smith, a student representing Student Wellness in the Center for Rehabilitation Care at Queer Fall Fest, found the separation of Queer Fall Fest from FallFest to be beneficial, as it provided a more intimate environment.

“There are definitely people who are looking specifically for queer events and clubs, and it would be a lot harder to find them at the entire UNC Union FallFest,” Gupta said.

Queer Fall Fest is one of the LGBTQ Center’s most attended events. Jamillae Stockett, assistant director of the LGBTQ Center, said students often return for other programming such as Club Soda events, Pride Week and National Coming Out Day.

“We connect with them first and see them at the beginning of the year when they're first starting their experience, but we tend to keep that connection throughout the time they’re here,” she said.

Gupta, who took a five-year gap between her first and second years at UNC, said she found the center in 2019 when she first enrolled. Despite her absence from the University, she remained connected to those also involved.

“It definitely does go beyond just what's on campus,” she said. 

She added that the center has also allowed her to meet other LGBTQ+ individuals, who she might not have met otherwise.

“[The LGBTQ Center] provides a safe space for people in the community, when there isn't really a lot of safety around in the world right now, especially for us,” Gupta said. 

While Queer Fall Fest is an optimal time for queer individuals and those already involved with the center to engage with other resources at the University, it is also a chance for allies to participate. The center wants allies to feel connected to LGBTQ+ students’ academic and universal experiences at UNC.

“We have so many events coming up throughout the year where we’re looking for allies,” Stockett said. “We want them to be visible. We want them to be connected with us.”


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