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LGBTQ resource fair promotes services for members of College community

| Friday, February 9, 2018

The Saint Mary’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club hosted an LGBTQ Resource Fair, an event that allowed participants to meet with LGBTQ and ally organizations, groups and individuals who provide resources to local and college communities Thursday.

Sophomore Susi Le, the 2017-2018 recipient of the LGBT Student Scholarship awarded by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s (GALA), coordinated the event. In addition to providing financial resources for students who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, GALA also sponsors charitable, educational, spiritual and athletic activities that further the interests of community members and their supporters.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Members of the Saint Mary’s community spoke with representatives from various LGBTQ support organizations about resources available in the Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and South Bend communities.

Along with GALA, the LGBTQ Center of South Bend; YWCA of Northern Indiana; Transgender Resource, Education and Enrichment Services (TREES); Graduate LGBTQ+ and Allies Student Society of Notre Dame (GlassND) and several other resource groups attended the event.

Meghan Buell, the founder and president of TREES, Inc., an organization spreading transgender education throughout small-town and rural communities, has been involved at Saint Mary’s for the past five years, appearing as a guest lecturer and acting as a mentor to student organizations. Buell said TREES, Inc. hopes to connect with college students through events such as Thursday’s resource fair.

“I think that sometimes there’s a disconnect between the community and the resources in the campus community, and we want to bring those together to let students know that there are resources in the community that they may not find directly through campus organizations,” Buell said.

TREES, Inc. strives to teach the essential tools necessary to initiate respectful, productive conversations in and about the LGBTQ community, Buell said.

“We are constantly having conversations and teaching communication skills that are involved in the transgender community: how to be respectful, how to use the right terminology, understanding that pronouns matter,” Buell said.

Laura Ortiz-Mercado, a graduate student at Notre Dame, represented GlassND, a group founded by the graduate student union that works to create a sense of community within Notre Dame and is specifically aimed toward graduate students who identify as LGBTQ.

“Our first goal is to create a sense of community and companionship, as well as a support group,” she said. “We know that, in a way, being in graduate school is like living inside a bubble in which you are disconnected from everything else. We’ve been trying to create connections across universities and, more importantly, with the South Bend community.”

One of the largest parts of her role as group organizer, Ortiz-Mercado said, is to create visibility by spreading LGBTQ awareness through the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities.

“The most important thing is bringing visibility to the different groups — support groups, student organizations and non-profit organizations around South Bend,” she said. “We want to bring visibility to the fact that we are here, and to let people in the LGTBTQ community know that they have a lot of resources and groups to join. We want to let them know that they are not alone here.”

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