With sleek and electrifying black hair going all the way down to the floor, a long dark pencil skirt almost touching the ground and a tight-fitting blouse with a pearl necklace and bracelet to perfectly compliment it, the costume chosen to portray classic pop singer Cher this past Halloween was just about complete.
Only a little make-up was still needed but the style of makeup left first-year Cameron Stevenson in a bind.
“This was the first time I’d gotten to dress up this year,” he said. “I didn’t know what exactly was ‘too much’ or what was just right.”
As a gay first-year at Miami University, Stevenson spent his first semester getting comfortable in his own skin.
“I had come out before coming here, but didn’t know what anyone else [on campus] would have to say about it,” Stevenson said.
However, any form of doubt has subsided. Stevenson boasts about the positive reaction his costume received uptown and about how he’s made so many new friends here so far.
“I’ve found the right friends here who don’t judge me on my sexuality and I know they’ll support me through whatever,” Stevenson said. “I know we’ll be friends all four years.”
Besides friends helping him on his journey as a gay student here, he also has plans to take advantage of various lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) events hosted around campus.
“I’ve heard about the drag shows that are done for charity here and I definitely plan on participating,” he said.
The drag shows – four a year – are run by the Spectrum LGBTQ organization, raising thousands of dollars for local, national and international charities, Spectrum president Mark Noviski said.
Although Stevenson himself is not a part of the organization, he still had very positive things to say about it.
“It helps people become so much more comfortable with their sexuality, knowing there are other people here to help support them,” Stephenson said. “I participate in just about all of the events that Spectrum holds.”
Spectrum is self-described as the largest LGBTQ alliance of undergraduate students on campus and has seen an increase in both membership and participation over the past several years, Noviski said.
“The campus climate has gone from being extremely hostile to moderately accepting over the past few years, and many people have been coming out as a result,” Noviski said.
Within Spectrum and the ever-increasing positivity for gay activism, several events are planned for students all year round such as the drag shows, awareness week and most recently, the counter-event to the Westboro Baptist Church picket, Unite Miami.
Such events have many in attendance besides just those in Spectrum, Noviski said. “Members of other diversity organizations attend our events and vice versa,” Noviski said. “In essence, people who face discrimination and prejudice tend to stick together, especially at a university known for a lack of diversity.”
Such organizations include Gleam, Haven and 1809 LGBT Alumni.
As a faculty-run organization, Gleam includes employees from professors to coaches. The organization supports employees who have come out while interacting with student organizations.
“The main focus of [this is letting students] know that there are [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] faculty and staff on campus and that they are not alone,” Gleam member Dan Meyers said.
Additionally, there are alumni and graduate groups to attract a wider range of Miami students. These organizations use their time to collaborate with others on campus and have bimonthly meetings to discuss various events that are coming up and how to spread positivity within the campus.
Haven, the queer graduate alliance, is an organization that is geared towards those at Miami for graduate schooling. With goals to connect with other LGBTQ groups on campus, many outings are planned to collaborate with such groups such as Halloween parties, election bashes and meetings help uptown.
Not much different from them would be the LGBT 1809 Alumni organization, which is a group of Miami alumni working together to spread support and positivity to current students, staff, and faculty. The group has regional networking events in cities such as Chicago and New York, annual scholarship awards and financial support of various LGBT groups on campus.