Mid-Year Reflections from LGBTQIA2S+ Affinity Group Leadership
It has been a particularly difficult year for many members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in the United States. The ACLU is currently tracking more than 500 bills directly attacking LGBTQIA2S+ rights, especially those of transgender youth.
Locally, Out For Business, the LGBTQIA2S+ graduate student affinity group at the Ross School of Business, promotes visibility and acceptance with community-based programming throughout the school year. Opportunities for educational, professional, and social engagement include two marquee events: OUTx is an evening of student-driven storytelling held in the fall, and MBgAy is an annual drag show for charity held each winter. Last year’s MBgAy raised more than $15,000 for a local LGBTQIA2S+ youth shelter, Ozone House.
This year’s OUTx was part of a wider range of educational, social, and professional development opportunities for LGBTQIA2S+ students and allies, known as Out Week. In honor of November’s Trans Day of Remembrance and Thanksgiving Week, we compiled three moments of learning and gratitude from this past fall’s OUTx and Out Week engagements.
The Future Is Behind Us
This year’s OUTx featured keynote speaker, Andrea James, whose experiences as a media-trained filmmaker and consumer activist set the stage perfectly for students to tell their own stories. Of the many salient points that were discussed, one that stood out was the idea that the future is behind us. Given the uncertainty of what’s to come, it’s better to look at the past to define what we want to see next in business and in society.
Marriage Benefits Don’t Cover All Benefits
OFB partnered with the Ross Health and Life Sciences Club to put together a panel of Michigan-based practitioners with unique areas of research and expertise in LGBTQIA2S+ healthcare topics. Shanna K. Kattari, PhD, MEd, CSE, ACS shared insights illuminating experiences of sexuality in marginalized communities, most notably disabled adults, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, those practicing non-monogamy, and those practicing kink/leather/BDSM. The conversation highlighted lesser-known barriers to healthcare benefits, in light of recent research from Ross Professors Thomas Buchmueller and Sarah Miller, which reveals rising health insurance costs for LGBTQIA2S+ adults in spite of lagging access to care.
Sometimes Things Have to Get Done Quickly (and That’s Okay!)
Concluding this year’s Out Week was a Fireside Chat with Chasten Buttigieg, author, teacher, arts education enthusiast, LGBTQIA2S+ rights advocate, and husband of author and politician, Pete Buttigieg. Moderated by Emma Jabour, MBA/MPP ’24, the conversation focused on the intersections of identity and allyship, particularly in social and professional contexts. In fact, much of the conversation with Chasten highlighted the need to build coalitions by working across differences, especially when stakeholder needs and backgrounds are as vast as they are for the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
When the opportunity presented itself, OFB was grateful to have fast-moving collaborators across campus to make this event possible in a short amount of time. So much planning had been done in the months leading up to the events, specifically to avoid having to scramble last minute for final details and confirmations. But the payoff was more than worth it. Graduate students at Ross and the University of Michigan were able to engage with other curious learners in potentially unfamiliar or uncomfortable affinity conversations. These events were centered on student voices as well as perspectives from experienced leaders.
With additional communications consulting from Jeff Domagala and the Sanger Leadership Center, OUTx speakers were empowered to use their personal and professional experiences for the greater Ross community. Ultimately, the impact of these opportunities to engage in professional, educational, and social community building comes back to the importance of building a better business world at scale. None of this would have been possible without the breadth and depth of resources at Ross and the University of Michigan.
We are looking forward to what the rest of this school year has in store!