Hillel Student Group Outreach Team and Rainbow Pride Union teamed up to identify the labels people use and explore how to use them without judgment.
The groups explored the different terms often associated with members of the LGBTQ community, members of the Jewish community and people in general.
Participants wrote three labels they identified with and three they wanted to learn more about on Post-its.
The words people chose were then written on a whiteboard. The terms ranged from easily recognizable ones like “white,” “Jew,” “gay” and “lesbian” to less understood ones such as “pansexual,” “gold star gay,” “Jews for Jesus” and “polyamorous.”
Attendees split into several small groups and discussed any labels from the board that they wanted to learn more or felt strongly about. Group members helped each other learn about the different lifestyles, identities and bigotry associated with these labels.
“I noticed that everyone was talking about something completely different; not even just different labels but also different ways to label people and different ways people label themselves,” said Donald Lodge, RPU director and junior double-majoring in political science and Chinese. “I thought that was really cool.”
Later on in the discussion, each group was asked what it was like to be a minority, either as a member of the LGBTQ community, the Jewish community or both. The question combined with the label discussion brought observations and opinions from every group. One said that people tend to feel more like minorities in some situations and less like minorities in others. Another stated that people are affixed with labels by birth, by choice and by others, each type having a different character.
Katie Shepard, Hillel vice president and a junior majoring in psychology, said she was fascinated by the variations of stereotypes and how they are applied.
“Some [people] mentioned stereotypes that you’re born with, stereotypes that you choose to have and stereotypes that other people may label you as,” Shepard said. “I liked that whole idea of a trifecta of three different kinds of labels, and that’s what interested me.”
The last topic discussed was the power of labels and the importance of addressing hateful language maturely but firmly. During this discussion, several attendees announced their confidence that they would be able to encourage another to refrain from allowing anti-Semitic or anti-LGBTQ words or phrases in their vocabulary.
“I definitely thought [the event] was a success,” Lodge said. “I [also noticed] that there seemed to be a pretty good mix between RPU students and Hillel students that normally come in.”
This meeting was the second of two events that Hillel and RPU held for Pride Week to promote acceptance and unity between the Jewish and LGBTQ communities.