After talking to Dorian Rhea Debussy, associate director of Kenyon’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), one can’t help but be impressed by all the initiatives they pilot on and off campus. As the first employee to come out as nonbinary while working at Kenyon, Debussy has worked tirelessly to cultivate support systems for the campus’ LGBTQ+ community, introduce inclusivity training for faculty and much more.
Debussy took an early interest in political science and queer military history during their undergraduate career at Columbus State University and went on to achieve a Ph.D. in political science, a M.A. in political science with a concentration in American studies, a graduate certificate in college instruction and a graduate certificate in feminist studies at the University of Connecticut.
Debussy arrived at Kenyon in the fall of 2018, starting out as the assistant director of ODEI, a newly structured role with a specific focus on diverse genders and sexuality. In the summer of 2020, they were promoted to their current position of associate director, taking on even more administrative duties, including but not limited to coordinating safer sex resources across campus, supervising Unity House and the Crozier Center for Women and managing the Student LGBTQ+ Diversity Fund.
Aside from their responsibilities at ODEI, Debussy also teaches Introduction to Queer Studies (WGS 121), the department’s first permanent queer studies course. The College added the course to the curriculum in the spring of 2019, after the women and gender studies program, ODEI and students on campus expressed the need for the class as a fixture in Kenyon’s course offerings. Debussy explained that the course itself is fluid and ever-changing, fitting the interests and needs of the students in each particular semester. “In terms of the course content, each instructor is able to bring their own lens of analysis to the classroom,” they said. “When I teach it, we cover a wide range of thematic areas including education, healthcare, politics and law, and media representation.”
As many responsibilities as Debussy tackles on campus, their expertise and commitments extend far beyond Kenyon. They are the founder and executive director of the Ace and Aro Alliance of Central Ohio, the state’s first organization serving the asexual and aromantic community.
Debussy has written several pieces centered on LGBTQ+ politics for various publications, including The Conversation and The Gay & Lesbian Review. When asked which article had been their favorite to write, Debussy pointed to their article titled “What We Can Learn From Mrs. America — And Why The ERA Fight Must Continue.”
“[That article] was certainly the most fun to write,” they said. “It let me revisit several favorite episodes from FX’s Mrs. America, which details the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s.” But their most recent upcoming publication, the third edition of Freedom to Serve: The Definitive Guide to the LGBTQ Military Service, is the work they take the most pride in. Debussy completed the new edition in December of 2020 after having been commissioned by the Modern Military Association of America, the same organization that fought the Trump administration’s transgender military ban.
The Biden administration later asked for an advance copy of the new edition. “I’m especially proud of the fact that the Biden presidential transition team requested an advance copy of that publication, so that they could better understand the challenges facing transgender people in the military,” they said.
While Debussy’s expertise and influences extend well beyond the boundaries of campus, they are very cognizant of the fact that every day brings on new challenges, even in the small town of Gambier. “No single day is the same in this particular role,” they said, “and I continue to focus on fostering LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity across campus and beyond.”