These Feminists are Standing Up for LGBTQIA+ Empowerment

March 23, 2017

Nora Smith, 18, was raised in Detroit and is currently a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh where she intends to double major in Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. While in high school, Nora founded a mental health awareness club called My Mental Health Matters. She currently works in the Youth Development Lab at her university, studying adolescents’ perception of risk and was recently elected business manager of the school’s Campus Women’s Organization, a gender equality advocacy group. In Nora’s free time she enjoys being with her family and dog, eating bagels, and exploring new museums.

The Campus Women’s Organization (CWO) at Pitt aims to advocate for gender equality but this year the organization used one of its premier annual events to support the LBGTQIA+ community.

This February, the organization staged their annual production of The Vagina Monologues in honor of V Day, a campaign to raise awareness of violence against women and raise money to support local organizations focused on that work. While The Vagina Monologues and V Day have been mainstays of the feminist community for more than two decades, both have been criticized for a lack of inclusiveness. In response, CWO decided to donate the proceeds of this year’s production towards an organization that focuses on intersectionality.

CWO chose the Garden of Peace Project, a local LGBTQIA+ empowerment and resource organization, focusing on providing resources for trans people of color. Specifically, the Garden of Peace Project’s (Trans)ition Project helps individuals who are going through the legal name and/or gender marker change process, providing assistance with necessary paperwork and other tasks to help individuals present themselves how they wish. The organization is uplifting individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community and addressing the lack of education, employment, healthcare, and housing that impacts the community.

Each night of the show sold out and in total – through fundraising, donations, raffles, and ticket sales – CWO was able to raise over $6,000 for the Garden of Peace Project. I interviewed Kate Eldridge, the show’s Financial Producer, to learn more about what CWO hoped to accomplish with this year’s production and to understand her perspective on kindness.

What is your year and major at Pitt?
I am a sophomore Child and Adolescent Justice major.

How did you get involved with being the Financial Producer for the show?
My freshman year, I was in CWO and was on the board of directors for the Vagina Monologues and when applications came around I was working in a fundraising department of a school. I figured I would be able to do this position. I applied and I got it!

Why did you choose the Garden of Peace Project as the recipient of the show’s proceeds?
They really represent where we want CWO to go, very inclusive values and actions. We thought it would be important for our money to go towards a nonprofit that supported trans identifying people. Financial support is very necessary.

In your opinion, how does the Garden of Peace Project create kindness within our community?
They are constantly creating different communities. They just opened up an art space for black individuals in Pittsburgh. They are constantly creating spaces for people to use their voices and talents, where those spaces don’t exist a lot for black and queer individuals. The director of the Garden of Peace Project has talked to me about how those spaces don’t exist in homes, so we are helping to create that important space for them. The Garden of Peace Project is literally creating spaces where love and affection happen, without any exceptions. Safe spaces are kind because they create a way for kindness to have no exceptions. They create an expectation of support and kindness for each individual involved.