An Evening of Queer Joy, formerly known as the LGBTQ+ Forum, showcases the spectrum of emotions experienced by queer people.
November 1, 2022 - By Emily Moskal
Oliver Nguyen, a conservation biology doctoral student at Stanford University who identifies as non-binary, said they were driven to be themselves through queer spite: They exist despite others’ judgment, like the hermaphroditic sea slugs, “just another example of queerness” in the animal kingdom, they said.
Nguyen spoke at An Evening of Queer Joy, which took place Oct. 25 in the Li Ka Shing Center. The event, said organizer Stevie Eberle, executive director of BioSci Careers, was intended to share and celebrate the full range of emotions felt by those in the LGBTQIA+ community as well as to examine the queer experience, what it has been and where it’s going.
“We wanted to center joy, as opposed to pain and sorrow,” Eberle said. “And we thought about joy being celebratory as well as survivalist.”
“We celebrate queer joy because there are so many reasons not to: We have a higher incidence of suicide and violence, health disparities,” Eberle continued. “In a time when our worthiness to love is in question and is legislated, joy is reclamation; it is radical and it is resistance.”
Formerly known as the LGBTQ+ Forum and focused on Stanford Medicine, the event has transitioned from a conference format to a storytelling celebration that includes the wider Stanford University community.
The event began as attendees sampled hors d’oeuvres to the live sound of a Japanese koto while a video collage featured Stanford Medicine faculty, students and staff relating their queer experiences. The attendees then found their way to seats circling the stage, which stood in the middle of room.
Six speakers gave TEDx-style mini-talks and poems.
Many, like Thomas Satterwhite, MD, a Stanford Medicine–trained gender-affirmation plastic surgeon, shared stories of denial. Satterwhite was told to not waste his degree aligning people physically with what they felt inside.
“Queer joy is catching your reflection in a window and actually liking what you see,” said Adi Mukund, a biophysics doctoral and medical student, reading a poem titled “Eat the Berries.”
Neda Kharrazi, PsyD, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said her patients who came out to her inspired her to live a more authentic life.
Many of the speakers reflected on the joy of chasing after one’s true self, but many still longed for increased visibility and a greater sense of community.
“Sometimes it feels like there’s not many of us in the medical school, and it can be isolating,” said Megha Patel, a medical student.
Similar sentiments were raised at the 2021 LGBTQ+ Forum, which spurred Stanford Medicine’s Diversity Cabinet to form working groups to assess community needs and help accelerate solutions. Led by the cabinet’s LGBTQ+ subcommittee, progress has been steady: Stanford Medicine has more gender-neutral bathrooms; more inclusive hospital badges will be rolled out in January 2023; and there will be more communication about services currently offered, such as gender-affirming hormone therapy, medications and procedures.
More progress is on the way, said Bláz Bush, the newly appointed executive director of the LGBTQ+ Health Program. “Much work has been happening to create a road map to make a difference in all of our lives,” he said. “I believe we can better tell the story of the comprehensive resources that are already available. The LGBTQ+ Health Program hopes to help highlight the wealth of resources and progress, while partnering to lead change.”
Following the talks, the first annual LGBTQIA Activist Award was awarded to Lillie Reed, a medical student who led efforts to change the medical school curriculum so that it includes more instruction on LGBTQIA+ health concerns.
The night culminated in viewing an art installation in Li Ka Shing Center that had been created over the last several months to define queer joy in four different arenas: euphoria, family, self-definition and community.
There was also a moment of silence for the those in the community who were lost during the past year.
Kate Samardzic, PhD, a chemical and systems biology postdoctoral scholar, left the event with a more nuanced experience of queerness.
“When I arrived, I took a simplistic view thinking that queer joy equals happiness,” Samardzic said. “After hearing about everyone’s experiences, I realized that it’s a lot more multifaceted, that there’s the good and bad; there’s spite and joy and resilience.”
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