By Sarah Lehr
“This is a safe space, you guys,” read the stickers promoted by Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid, founders of the website Everyone is Gay. The pair handed out its own variation of the “safe space” stickers distributed by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) when the two spoke in Peirce Pub on Tuesday, Oct. 11 to an overflowing crowd.
The talk at Kenyon and the website behind it both bear the title Everyone is Gay, but during the presentation, Russo said, “If it isn’t already obvious, we don’t think that everyone is gay.” She said the website’s title was intended merely to make people laugh.
Owens-Reid, who also created the blog Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, said, “We began a site just to be funny.” As they explained onstage, they were both surprised when the creation of Everyone is Gay led to what Russo described as “an enormous amount” of serious pleas for advice.
Everyone is Gay is now primarily an advice website. “The bulk of readership is between 13 to 24 [years old],” Owens-Reid said. It is also mostly, but not exclusively, made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. The pair said they also receive questions from other groups, including parents and “straight allies.” At the end of their speech at Kenyon, they welcomed questions from the audience and offered specific advice in response.
During the presentation, Russo and Owens-Reid read statistics taken from the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey about the frequency and effects of discrimination against LGBTQ students in schools. They also presented examples of teenagers who committed suicide in recent years and who, prior to suicide, were harassed because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Russo and Owens-Reid read brief biographies of these young people and put up a photograph of each person. Audience member Kathryn Kadleck ’15 said, “Seeing the actual names and faces was powerful. It was sobering.” Immediately afterward, however, Russo and Owens-Reid had the audience laughing by playing a video clip of themselves lip-syncing.
Russo addressed the audience in Peirce Pub regarding discrimination against LGBTQ students. “Some of you are sitting in this room with us and thinking, ‘This is so messed up. … How can I help?'” she said. “And some of you are thinking, ‘Damn, they are really good at lip-syncing.'”
Russo and Owens-Reid listed ways Kenyon students could turn the tide for the better, including volunteering and political engagement. Owens-Reid acknowledged onstage, however, “I had no interest in being politically active in college. I just wanted to be myself, go about my business and maintain my entire collection of Britney Spears memorabilia.”
Russo and Owens-Reid said students could make a difference simply by “being kind.” Owens-Reid said to the Peirce Pub audience, “What makes you guys think that you have to fit in a tiny little category and stay in that category forever? Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just love who we loved and that was it?”
[starbox id=”Sarah Lehr”]