|QASO reaches out to students with understanding|
This winter’s Club Fair was a very lucrative place to be. Booths were giving out lots of candy, makeover coupons, Bibles, condoms—wait, condoms? Who would give out condoms? The Queers and Allies Student Organization (QASO), that’s who.
QASO (pronounced kay-soh) is a support group for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students whose goal is to promote diversity, awareness and socialization. “You can be gay, straight, whatever, just as long as you support,” said President Megan Junknan. Junknan herself is not gay.
The condoms were used as a way to attract people’s attention. “We’re just promoting safe sex,” she said. “That, and they’re funny.”
Students who are questioning their sexuality are welcome as well. “That’s what we’re here for,” said QASO Vice President Justin Guile. “We’re a safe-zone for anybody.” Guile emphasized the need for confidentiality because members of QASO understand that asserting one’s sexual identity can be an embarrassing and even hazardous ordeal. Junknan said that discouraging homophobic reactions is one of QASO’s goals. “We’re trying to get rid of that attitude,” she said. “It seems unrealistic that it will all magically go away, so we really have to work for it.”
Along with free condoms, their booth featured a coloring contest, a contest to see who could guess how many condoms were in a jar, and a game where two contestants race to see who could get the most condoms on a banana in one minute. “We’re trying to break down people’s comfort zones and barriers,” said QASO Secretary Danny Porter. “By making games out of it, by making jokes with it, by making people more comfortable and aware with something like contraception or condoms.”
But they weren’t mere games to everyone. Student Sarah Gabriel, a QASO supporter, expressed concern that the games may hurt the group in the long run. “My mother is just completely convinced that all gay people are promiscuous. I think that’s a generality and it’s not fair,” said Gabriel. “You’re only perpetuating a generality that does nothing but hurt you in the long run.”
But Porter was unfazed by such a concern. “I was concerned about backlash when we did this last year,” he said. “But as far as I’m concerned, people can think what they want.”
She feels that being a part of a club is a good way for students to feel a sense of belonging. “It lets you know that there are other people like you out there,” she said. “If there wasn’t a Star Trek club . . . there would be a lot of lonely geeks out there. And the geeks need to feel loved.”
QASO is a place for anyone to express themselves when they would otherwise feel uncomfortable. The people there are compassionate, knowledgeable and they know how to dress well. What better place to feel pretty, and witty, and gay.