As the new school semester starts, Tagg Magazine checks in with two Point Foundation Scholarship recipients about what it’s like to be a student, advocate, and LGBTQ community member on college campuses today. Oliver Stabbe is originally from Washington, D.C. and attends the University of Rochester. Maddie Pavek was raised in Minnesota and attends American University. Point Foundation currently supports 98 LGBTQ students with higher education scholarships, mentoring, and leadership development training.
What kinds of activism were you involved in last semester? How will you continue your activism next semester?
Oliver Stabbe: Last year a disability rights co-worker told me that the Women’s March on Washington was looking for help in making the march more accessible for people with disabilities. I am not a woman but, as a trans man, I can empathize with the reasons for which they march. From helping with the march, I got a glimpse of the steps involved in planning access for events. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and have been implementing it by assisting in the planning of trans rights rallies, Black Lives Matter events, and speeches for Immigration Equality. No matter whether I am there as an ally or am personally affected by the topics spoken about, I recognize the importance of fully accessible spaces and will continue to get involved in these events. I also volunteer weekly with Trans Lifeline.
Maddie Pavek: Last semester I served as the Director of Education for Students to End Abortion Stigma on American University’s campus. I led several sex education events, and we are currently working on some new projects for the upcoming year. I also worked as an Intergroup Dialogue Facilitator for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. With two co-facilitators I led a seven-week dialogue entitled “Gender, Race, and Mental Health.” This year I’ll be co-facilitating a dialogue on “Whiteness and Anti-Racism” in addition to serving as a campus Diversity Peer Educator.
How has your position as an LGBTQ student in higher education been affected by this particular political climate?
Oliver Stabbe: As a queer trans person, I’ve always felt particularly targeted for my identity in my everyday life. Even before this administration, I’ve had my fair share of homophobic and transphobic incidents, but it took a physical manifestation of sheer hatred to occupy the White House —one which allies could no longer turn a blind eye to—for so many of them to show up and speak out. Because of that, I’ve ironically felt somewhat more comfortable in my everyday life. More people speaking up means more education for all. But I still fear what will happen at a federal level: if insurance refuses to cover our trans-related health costs, there are people who will die. If we’re forbidden to use public facilities, what does that mean for our access to other public spaces that could improve our lives, educational settings included? All of these possibilities have created a lot of fear in my community.
Maddie Pavek: As a political science student in Washington D.C., last year’s election definitely had an impact on me as well as my aspirations for the future. I had always been interested in working for the federal government in some capacity, but once Trump was elected, he reversed protections for LGBTQ federal employees. The first few days following the election were very difficult. A lot of students didn’t go to class because they felt so scared about what might happen going forward.
What challenges do you expect to face during the upcoming semester?
Oliver Stabbe: I think that this year a big challenge for me will be to be patient. I see so much happening in the world that I know I have the power to help change. When I sometimes feel powerless, it helps to remind myself that every day at my university I am learning something new. With that knowledge, I know I can more readily create change.
Maddie Pavek: I think that activism in all capacities is going to become a lot more difficult this semester. Every day I read the news, and it feels like a dream. It’s definitely hard to focus on being a student when there is so much craziness going on in our world.
What are you looking forward to about the new school year?
Oliver Stabbe: I’m really looking forward to finding new ways to get involved! Last year, I joined our Irish dancing team and had a blast! I’m still looking at our club lists and trying to decide what I want to do next. It’s always great to meet and connect with people who have similar interests.
Maddie Pavek: I’m excited for my new roles on campus as well as my classes. I’m interning this semester as well, so I think that will open the doors for a lot of other really great opportunities.
Help Point Foundation Scholars like Maddie and Oliver while enjoying epicurean treats and cocktails at the Point Foundation’s Washington D.C. Cornerstone Society Reception: Thursday, September 14, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Room & Board, 1840 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. For more information and tickets, visit https://pointfoundation.org/DC2017.