NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

LGBTQ+ pride on campus: An exploration into NECC’s GSA

A poster for NECC's GSA clubPhoto by Campus Life Editor Demiya Silva

Pride and representation for the LGBTQ+ community has become an increasingly important issue in our country. There are many laws currently being proposed nationwide that put members of the community at serious risk. 

At Northern Essex Community College, the GSA, or Gender and Sexuality Alliance, according to the “Clubs & Organizations’’ page on the NECC website, “provides an environment for students inside and outside of the LGBTAI+ community to be comfortable in their identity, have insightful conversations, and find peace in a truly accepting community.”

Cheryl Wilson, a disability services specialist at NECC’s Center for Accessibility, is currently in her second year of being the adviser of the GSA. 

“It’s an important club that couldn’t not happen,” Wilson said. 

Wilson acknowledges the many LGBTQ+ students at Northern Essex, hoping they will be able to find the club. 

When asked if she feels the community is well represented on campus, Wilson shares that “the heart is in the right place.” 

Wilson has concerns regarding the current social climate right now, saying “it’s extremely important that everyone feels safe here.”

Wilson is not the only person that emphasizes the importance of a club like the GSA on campus. 

Colby Patrie is an art and psychology major at NECC, as well as a longtime member of the GSA. 

“It’s just something I always did,” Patrie says when asked what inspired him to join the club. 

He further shares that he had a part in creating the GSA at his high school. 

To Patrie, the importance of pride in a college setting is in the ability to feel safe within one’s surroundings, as well as “talking about (pride) as if it’s a normal conversation, because it is.” 

To Dakota Iversen, a liberal arts and psychology major, as well as a longtime member of the GSA, “coming to college and being able to see that you’re welcomed here makes college a far more pleasant experience.” 

Iversen talks openly about the safe space that the GSA created for her, stating that “last year (she) was still in the closet entirely.” 

This experience slightly parallels that of business transfer major Lirianni German, a new member of the club, who “decided to join GSA to at least try to find people that (she’s) kind of like.” 

“It taught me to be proud of what I am, and not to change,” German says when asked about the impact that GSA has had on her over such a short period of time.

Allyship, as defined by Center for Creative Leadership, is “actions, behaviors, and practices that leaders take to support, amplify, and advocate with others, most especially with individuals who don’t belong to the same social identities as themselves.” 

The question “What can people who are not part of the communities do now to be better allies?” was met with varying reactions, including a “what a doozy,” from Iversen. 

“Learn from (LGBTQ+ people’s) experiences,” she expands. 

“Allyship is in actions and taking steps to educate yourself, being aware of rights and laws that are currently going on,” says Patrie, who also promotes the use of more inclusive language when discussing trying topics in the community. 

Wilson speaks on the importance of supportive faculty and staff, saying that she “would love to see safe space stickers around campus and in classrooms, but only if they’re actually a safe space.” Wilson recognizes the fact that it would be harmful for non-inclusive spaces to have stickers that promote a positive environment.

GSA is doing more than just discussing the importance of their club. 

They had a widely successful table at the U-Knighted Fair at NECC’s Haverhill campus, during which they gave away various pins, stickers and resources for useful and educational information. 

They have also been discussing opportunities for different events that the club could host, including possible performances from queer artists at NECC.

The GSA meets on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. in C210. 

For more information about the club contact Faculty Adviser Cheryl Wilson,