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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
Acting on what they described as a gap in advocacy opportunities on campus, Harvard undergraduates are seeking to promote LGBTQ+ rights and activism through a new group, Harvard Undergraduate Queer Advocates.
The group started when current board members and founders met last year during Visitas, an annual event which brings newly admitted students to campus in April to learn more about Harvard and meet other accepted students.
In founding the new group, the students were united in their common interest in advancing queer advocacy at Harvard. HUQAD aims to empower and advocate for LGBTQ+ people on campus and in the greater Boston area.
Oliver J. Slayton ’26, co-director of communications and a founding member of HUQAD, said the group’s founders felt there “wasn’t quite an organization centered around advocacy”.
Neha Kalra ’26, the vice president of HUQAD, said the group’s meetings grew organically out of a desire to collaborate on shared projects.
“It started with very informal meetings in the Science Center cafe once a week at night on Wednesdays,” Kalra said.
Kalra added that there was no leadership structure at the time — an arrangement they described as “flat leadership.”
“People really came not because they were obligated to, but because they just really had a passion for this organization,” they said.
The group’s current focus is on gender-inclusive bathrooms. Referencing the “strenuous laws around going to the bathroom that aligns with your sex assigned at birth,” Slayton said “bathrooms have become highly politicized recently.”
“All of a sudden, there is so much social pressure in the choice of which restroom you’re walking into,” they added. “And not only social pressure, but now political pressure depending on where you are.”
Kalra said the project on gender-inclusive bathrooms has entailed extensive research and collaborations with other organizations.
Amber M. Simons ’26, one of the co-presidents of HUQAD, said they hope to expand the advocacy work done by the group beyond the campus and into the Boston area, collaborating with other organizations. Simons also said the group aims to “empower” others to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Slayton said the “number one goal” of the organization is to make “the queer humans around us face a little bit less strain in their day-to-day life.”
Klarna said the organization aims to teach students to become more civically and politically engaged.
“We really want to enable everyone who does care about making a difference to be able to have the resources and knowledge to do so,” they said.
Slayton said the group seeks to be a space for individuals from all walks of life to come together to advance a common goal.
“It’s just a space for students, whether they’re queer or not, to come and make the world a better place day by day,” they said.
—Staff writer Hana Rostami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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