Journalism department to sponsor LGBT tea social

By Ben Keefe


(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

The University of Massachusetts journalism department will sponsor an inaugural tea social event for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students Thursday starting at 2:45 p.m. in Integrative Learning Center room S415.

According to junior journalism major Lia Gips who is hosting the event, the tea social will be a time for LGBT students within the journalism department to come together in a safe, ally-friendly environment and get to know each other.  Through this networking opportunity, Gips wants attendees to feel free to express themselves and talk about their experiences with being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“It should be a place that if people feel that there are issues that they want to talk about, they can talk about those issues, but it’s not necessarily an issue-based thing,” said Gips, who is also a correspondent with the Daily Collegian. “It’s more about networking.”

Gips said that social events of this nature can be awkward. Because of this, Gips wants to make the experience as welcoming as possible.

Along with sharing experiences with fellow LGBT identifiers, there will be art supplies for a collage that everyone can collaborate on, as well as desserts for people to enjoy throughout the social.

Within the journalism major, Gips feels there is no voice for the LGBT community. With no LGBT professors to support an LGBT function or organization, Gips knew that if they wanted any sort of LGBT movement within the major, they would have to take the initiative and create it themselves.

The first goal of this event is to help LGBT students feel comfortable by letting them know they are not alone.

“I feel a little bit weird every time I casually mention that I’m gay and… I’m super out so if I have that discomfort, I imagine that many people in our very straight- feeling department also have discomfort,” Gips said.  

However, by creating a supportive community of their own, Gips said that individuals will be more open to expression, as they will be in an environment of supportive individuals.

The second hope for the gathering is to enable LGBT people to make their presence known in the community.

“I know that in our department of like 250, 300, there is no way me and this one other person that I can think of are the only gay ones,” Gips said. “I’m hoping that this (event) can be where they can feel they can come out of the woodwork a little bit.”

Although Gips is unsure about the expected number of attendees, they know that they can count on a specific handful of individuals to attend.

To spread awareness for the event, Gips has reached out to several outlets including the journalism department’s Monday Memo, a place where the journalism staff post weekly announcements; the Stonewall Center, which advocates for LGBT students within the Amherst community; and local pioneer valley LGBT groups, as well as putting up flyers and using social media.

With the tea social as a starting block, Gips said that “if people are into it, I would really like for it to move in an advocacy direction. Maybe (we’ll) go on to (be members of the) National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.”

Ben Keefe can be reached at [email protected]