When Zach Moore arrived at Indiana State University his freshmen year, he could feel the sense of unease gender and sexual minorities had freely expressing themselves on campus.
Six years later, though, a lot has changed. Moore graduated and returned to work on a master’s degree in graphic design at Indiana State, where he served one year as the president of the student advocacy organization Spectrum and witnessed the creation of the LGBTQ Resource Center and the addition of the Office of Residential Life’s gender-neutral housing option.
“These are things that make students feel safer and more included from the get-go, and institutionally, it shows a lot of support for this community,” Moore said. “There is still a bit of unease, though, with the current political climate, and Spectrum tries to combat that by being a safe space and providing a community of students who have experienced similar things and can serve as support for one another.”
Indiana State graduates and employees pose for a photograph during Lavender Graduation, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and student success.
Spectrum’s mission has evolved to fit the times and its membership. Once known as Advocates for equality, the organization began with the purpose of activism. Today, though, the group serves as a safe place for students and provides queer-specific programming initiatives.
“I feel the need for a group like this is ever-present but has changed in mission because we were encountering a lot of students who didn’t feel accepted or safe and they decided to change the mission to provide that extra security,” Moore said. “Anonymity is one thing we are big on and make privacy a high priority. Our goal is to let people be who they are in a space they feel comfortable in.”
Spectrum’s continued efforts to push for such spaces continued into the 2014-15 school year with a petition to establish a campus LGBTQ Resource Center to handle campus-wide initiatives and educational efforts around the LGBTQ community.
“As someone who has done queer-specific programming now, it’s really hard to make sure everyone feels included, because Spectrum encompasses so many variances of identity and self-identifications,” Moore said. “But once you know how to provide genuinely inclusive programming the conversations, you get to have with these students is incredible. When it comes to the types of programming we do, Spectrum really lets its membership dictate what we do.”
When the members were unable to attend this year’s Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally Collegiate Conference in Nebraska — the nation’s largest and oldest continuously held LGBTQ college conference — Spectrum create the Drop of Lavender Summit.
Spectrum partnered with other institutions, including Eastern Illinois University, Ball State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, to host the summit and provide students with an inclusive education through a broad range of ideas and perspectives on topics such as queer art history, defining what queer looks like in Greek life and sexual health for queer-specific students.
As Spectrum’s president from March 2017 to March 2018, Moore oversaw this spring’s inaugural summit and is hopeful queer students will come here and feel as accepted, supported and included as he has come to feel.
“A lot of that is about taking your own initiative and opening up to who you are to the people around you and that can be a really scary thing,” he said. “When it comes to being queer, you need that visibility because it is so stigmatized but living in the Midwest you don’t get that. Offering that visibility as an institution would show support and go beyond tolerance to acceptance, which is the push, I think, the community at-large is making.”
Spectrum is pushing beyond tolerance now and seeks acceptance, but its efforts have been met with pushback that, Moore added, has some older role models in the community losing hope that inclusion and acceptance will be obtained.
“There isn’t a lot of queer-student visibility on the social media channels, in many publications or in photography and visibility is a huge part of inclusion, but a lot people view Spectrum like a fishbowl,” he said. “A professor might tell their students to visit Spectrum events and do a report, but that’s not really experiencing diversity.”
Pushing for acceptance and inclusion was a pillar of Moore’s time as Spectrum’s president, a position he never expected to hold when he first enrolled at Indiana State. His intention was to keep his head down, earn his degree and start a career.
What he never accounted for was how his leadership in Spectrum would enhance his college experience. Moore used the connections he made through employment with the Office of Residential Life to help expand the organization.
His biggest goals as president were to establish the Drop of Lavender Summit and build partnerships with more like-minded organizations that are fighting for the same representation and visibility, both of which he achieved.
Maybe the biggest transformation of Moore’s six years in Spectrum has been within himself, something he hopes all the members experience while part of the organization.
“I am not the person I thought I would be six years ago, but I am so glad I am who I am today. That’s not something I thought I would be able to say before I went through Spectrum. For me to feel comfortable at ISU after all the time I’ve spent here, and be who I am out loud and visibly is an incredible opportunity for me,” he said.
“My hope is that anyone who comes to Spectrum eventually becomes a leader in the queer community, because we don’t have enough of them. It wasn’t until I had real-life, tangible role models that I was able to find myself and become who I am. Now, I try to use it as a platform for other students to be able to do so, too. Feeling loved, accepted and cared for are universal goals.”
To test run a gender-neutral high-end boutique, graduate student of graphic design, Zac Moore, is launching “Out-fitters” in the Personal Gallery on Thursday May 3 from 4-6 p.m.
This project was funded by an ISU Art Gallery grant proposal for $500. The grant funded the racks and other hardware for the pop-up store but Moore has also put his own money into the project.
“The goal of the project is to provide students with gender free clothing. To offer free and accessible androgynous and gender inclusive options that better reflect peoples’ personal gender identities,” Moore said.
The clothes were donated and are available for free at the launch and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day until Friday May 11.
“It’s presented in a way that is like a high-end boutique and not a traditional Salvation Army or Goodwill style so that it makes these people feel important and valued so that is a designed experience. This is all focused to express that they are normal and they can have access to the same experiences that traditionally gendered people do,” Moore said.
Moore said that he believes that a lot of people don’t feel represented and included and that this project is to give those people a place to be who they are.
“Clothes don’t change the world but the person that wears them might,” Moore said. “I don’t care who you are, when you put on a suit, you act and carry yourself differently and people will treat you differently. It’s the same as when you wear a T-shirt or a scarf. What you wear affects how you go through the world and how you are treated. Allowing people to feel comfortable with what they wear allows them the confidence to feel better and express themselves more freely.”
Moore said that there is research to back that misrepresented people will act and feel different when they are unable to express themselves. When they can express themselves they have lower risks of mental heath issues, and are more likely to make better decisions.
“The idea is not new. There are places in San Francisco and Chicago that cater specifically to queer people but this is the first one here in the area designed to provide this kind of experience at such a high-end aesthetic,” Moore said. “I was inspired a lot by a class that focuses on public health and public art and how art can influence the way we live and our decision-making. That helped me to design how the project works and how I go about accomplishing my goals.”
Moore hand-designed the tags and bags with a stamp to make the store as polished as he wanted.
“All of the design is very intentional,” Moore said. “In using the typeface, it was designed in such a way that it doesn’t have a gender. The drybrush script that I use is firm but it is still handwritten which is both masculine and feminine which is telling of the project. Branding is very important and designers are like the gatekeepers to branding. We get to decide what things look like and why they are effective. Using the black and white is a play on the gender binary and using these colors allows people to read it as masculine or feminine as they want. The grey represents the mix or the androgyny.”
The clothes left over will be used in the next iteration of the pop-up shop. Moore’s goal is to have an event at the fountain in the fall semester and involve more people. He is also looking into a partnership with the textiles, apparel and merchandising program to create ready-to-wear pieces that are intentionally androgynous in nature.
“If your gender doesn’t conform, why should your clothes?” Moore said.
Drop of Lavender
The LGBTQ community hosted a summit for students on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Hulman Memorial Student Union, to promote inclusivity.
Many students gathered around to be in an area and space to feel comfortable about their sexuality. Most importantly, they wanted a sense of belonging and respect at Indiana State University.
Some of the people who attended were allies of the LGBTQ community. Allies are people who are the voice and the support of this community. This kind of person is usually heterosexual. They are the ones doing their research on the community, and they help with pushing equal rights for them.
“To have an education on the LGBTQ community. It important for this community to make them feel inclusive, and respect them as human beings. We want ISU to know that we are here, and there are people out there who are concerned with the LGBTQ community,” said Zach Moore, the summit coordinator.
There were many sessions on learning about the LGBTQ community. One of the sessions involved a privilege test. This test consists of many different questions pertaining to race, class, sex, religion and sexual orientation. Each person stood in a straight line holding hands. The person who was in charge asked different questions. If it pertain to them they either had to move a step forward or a step backwards. Many of them broke hands because of the distance they had with each other.
One of the questions asked “Do you feel safe walking down the street at night.” Many of the people step backwards because no one felt safe. After the test was over with, nobody was in the straight line anymore. Some of the people were in the front, and some were in the back. The people turned and looked at their peers to see where their ending position was.
“The privilege test was used to show what kind of privilege people have, regardless of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation,” Moore said. “It gives a visual representation on where people start, and where they might finished.”
In addition, people had a discussion on how they felt about the privilege test. Many of them were surprised where their ending point was. Some of them did not believed in how much privilege that they had over each other. There were some who were not surprised where their ending position was.
There were a few people who chose to sit out because of their personal beliefs.
Towards the end of the summit, there was discussion panel. Everyone formed groups to talk about their identity. They talked about the many struggles they had when coming out to their families. Some of their families were fine with it, but there were some who did not agree with their decision.
Many of them believed people did not agree with their sexuality because of traditional values. They wished that people would just accept them for who they are and change their traditional values.
Every day, the LGBTQ continues to expand with different identities. Hopefully this summit brought awareness to the ISU community, because they need a sense of belongingness here just like everyone else.