GSA starts Thanksgiving dinner tradition

Thea Gonzales

Members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) met in Andreen on Tuesday, Nov. 22 to start the tradition of a GSA Thanksgiving dinner. Students brought foods like brownies, flautas, ravioli, and spaghetti to celebrate the holiday together.
According to GSA president and junior, Mercedes VanOpdorp, it was important to create a safe space during Thanksgiving for students who might feel unsafe or anxious about returning home to an environment that may not be accepting of their sexuality and gender identity.
“I think the reason Thanksgiving kept coming up in my mind was because, for myself during fall break, I was kind of nervous going home. I thought about it and said, you know, there are probably some people who are going home for the holidays who are probably nervous about going home because family tensions may be high– whether that’s because they just came out or they haven’t come out and they’re worried about it with their family,” VanOpdorp said.
She also acknowledged that there may be additional stress because of the recent election results and hoped that the dinner would help give queer and allied students the chance to take a break from activism and anxiety.
“I wanted to make sure that no matter what, everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Even if they went home and their Thanksgiving was absolutely horrible, they had at least one good Thanksgiving with people they really enjoy being with,” VanOpdorp said.
First-year student Isabel Dawson had never been a part of an organization like GSA before this year and has already begun to understand the significance of events like the dinner for students who might feel unsafe or worried about celebrating the holiday at home.
“Everyone goes home to a different environment for Thanksgiving with their family, so I think it’s really important that we have a Thanksgiving for our queer community on campus where everyone is accepted and it can just be a good time,” Dawson said.
For junior Donald Sisneros, who recently came out as bisexual, the existence of GSA has been helpful in finding his own sexuality and in offering support when he faced discrimination.
“In the LGBT community, I did face a little bit of biphobia, so I wasn’t fully accepted in the straight community and not fully accepted in the gay community. After I came out, things slowly started to get better, and now I try to represent bisexuality throughout the school. I have a little ring on my keychain and a sticker on my laptop. I’m trying to make it more well-known that bisexuality does exist,” Sisneros said.
He sees potential in the GSA at Augustana and hopes that it continues to grow and spread its values of love and acceptance through the community, beginning with this Thanksgiving dinner.
“Especially at Augie, I definitely felt like there was no strong LGBT community. If I would have known a safer place like the GSA, I would have felt more comfortable about coming out. Just having that sense of community anywhere helps people to feel like they’re at home, and LGBT issues are really prevalent. Especially now in the Midwest, there’s not a whole lot of acceptance– from what I’m used to back in Denver, Colorado. And I think that building something here would be really good,” Sisneros said.