Theme House Spotlight: The Queer and Ally House

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Sewanee’s Georgia Avenue townhouses, which house (among others) the Q&A house. Photo courtesy of sewanee.edu.

By Luke Gair
Executive Staff

Down Georgia Avenue, only a few strides down the sidewalk from Stirling’s, sits a series of townhouses. The Queer and Ally (Q&A) House can be easily recognized by the rainbow flag delicately hanging in the window. Inside, posters and eclectic memorabilia from a slew of events hosted by the Q&A House and Spectrum, another organization dedicated to spearheading LGBTQ+ issues on campus, decorate the house’s common space.

Hannah Habit (C’19), co-director and resident, finds that to live in the house means “advocating for a cause and community that I not only believe in but am a part of. The work I do as a resident of the house is to build a stronger and more unified LGBTQ+ community on campus, and I am very proud to have the opportunity to do that.”

On Sewanee’s campus, where LGBTQ+ safe spaces are not as visible as they could be, the Q&A House acts as a safe space where dialogues can occur in an inclusive environment. In such a small student population, Habit hopes that “the Q&A House can act as a place on campus where LGBTQ+ identifiers and allies are comfortable coming to and hanging out. I want the house to act not only as a facilitator of social progress, but also, because of the isolated nature of this campus, a place where we can create a sense of community.”

A known fact on the Domain is that a person could count the number of out gay men on their hands. Although gay men are only a fraction of the LGBTQ+ community at Sewanee, the reality of this small number is still relevant to the entirety of queer culture on campus. It is such a small population that it is, as Habit states, “overlooked…and with the growing prevalence of gender identity and sexual orientation non-conformity, this is something that needs to be talked about.”

The theme house strives to hold events that reach the broader Sewanee community, whether it’s inviting non-residents for movie screenings or hosting a waffle breakfast. Habit said that their most recent event, a screening of Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning about ball culture in New York City in the 1980s, was a “big success” with a large number of students from “both from the College of Arts and Science and School of Theology. Community members came out and had a great discussion afterward.”

After living in the Q&A House for two years, Habit believes one of the most memorable projects the house has done this year was the “rainbow-painted closet door” that was placed in the center of Spencer Quad in October, an exhibit for all students on campus to see.

Habit continued, “I really loved that installation because it created a visible sense of community on campus. Having the door in the middle of Spencer Quad meant that it was hard to miss. Additionally, we had over 30 different organizations sponsor the door, letting members of Sewanee’s LGBTQ+ community know that they welcome and support them.”

In her time living in the house, Habit said, “I have been directly involved with the House for two years now and I am so proud of the progress that we have made as an organization, largely due in part to the amazing residents and advisors involved.” However, Habit, along with countless others, hopes that the community will continue to grow.

Although the Q&A House stands as an extremely necessary building on campus, Habit hopes that eventually in the future there will be “no need to have a house like ours. As we progress as a community and as a society as a whole, I hope that there will be no need for a house on campus whose purpose is to advocate for equity and equality as it pertains to the LGBTQ+ community. However, because we are not there yet, the house must actively work towards that point. Therefore, in the coming years, I hope to see the house build capacity and expand its reach.”

Habit concluded by stating that she would “love for the house to be a place that everyone is not only comfortable coming to, but wants to come to and that means actively working towards de-stigmatizing LGBTQ+ identifiers and the LGBTQ+ community.”

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