Queer Culture at the U

By Lavender May 9, 2008

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Has all this negative attention had a chilling affect for Kinky U? Quite the opposite.

What’s one of oldest GLBT college groups in the country? The Queer Student Cultural Center (QSCC) at the University of Minnesota.

What local organization has been in the eye of a media firestorm since January? Yup, that same QSCC.

First, let me tell you about QSCC. It is an umbrella organization for several different campus GLBT groups, such as Queer Women, Queer Men, Biversity, Queer People of Color, Tranarchy, and Kinky U (more on this last one shortly). QSCC offers the groups support, access to money from student services fees, and a place to meet. Its office on the second floor of Coffman Union is called “Safe Space.”

QSCC Treasurer Justin says, “It’s a safe haven for anyone who wants to come in.”

Just ask Ashton, a Poli Sci major from Windom, Minnesota, who shares, “There were no out people at my high school. It’s nice to have a place to belong. That’s been the case with the whole campus, but it’s especially true at QSCC.”

“It’s a great place to hang out,” in the words of Nico, a third year wildlife conservation major who went to Cooper High in Robbinsdale, where, Nico adds, “I was the token queer student.” Now, Nico is involved with Tranarchy. When it comes to being trans, Nico relates, “It’s nice that QSCC is, like, ‘whatever.’”

Sounds pretty relaxed, doesn’t it? What’s so controversial about that? I mean, doesn’t every campus these days have something like this?

Maybe, but not every campus has a group called Kinky U. It started as a group for devotees of all things, well, kink. Think bondage, leather—that sort of thing. As with all QSCC groups, Kinky U allows people to support each other, create community, and share information about their common interests.

The latter may be especially important for devotees of kink, in that we’re not talking about a knitting club where the worst danger would be accidentally stabbing oneself with a needle. With Kinky U, one may need to learn how to use a needle, and do it in such a way as to avoid causing damage or contracting a disease. Anyone who has tried his or her hand at these activities knows that boundaries and safety must be a focus at all times. It’s important to learn right away about what to do and not to do.

Fair enough. So, the group is there for the people who need it, and the rest of us can mind our own business, right? Wrong.

On January 21, the Minnesota Daily reported in a headline: “‘Kinky U’ promotes sexual awareness in unusual ways.” The article explained that some students objected to Kinky U’s funding, with one student saying, “I don’t really want my tuition to go to that.”

Never mind that tuition doesn’t go to this or any other student group. QSCC as a whole is funded with student services fees, and Kinky U, as an official student group, gets a share—to be exact, $100 a semester, or, according to Justin, “about one-half penny a student.”

It didn’t end with the Daily. KSTP News got a hold of the story, and did what Channel 5 does with most stories: sensationalized it—using a graphic with triple X’s over legs on a dance floor that appeared to me to be from a strip club.

KQRS’s morning show picked up the story next, and shed its usual fine brand of journalism all over it

After that, City Pages got the story, and, according to QSCC members, did a good job.

Finally, for me the pièce de résistance, Katherine Kersten, right-wing columnist from the Star Tribune, grabbed onto the story. It was a funny column, written assuming the reader, of course, would not support the group.

So, was Kersten right? Has all this negative attention had a chilling affect for Kinky U? Quite the opposite.

“It just exploded” in numbers of attendees, Justin notes.

In fact, all QSCC groups saw increased attendance, especially Kinky U.

“It’s one of our largest member-attended groups this year,” Justin observes, calling it the Da Vinci Code effect (as in the movie): “So many people talked bad about it, everyone has to go see it.”

I’m amazed at how much dust gets kicked up when it comes to sex, and also at the impact of good marketing in picking the name “Kinky U.” As has happened again and again, the value of free publicity right-wing blowhards bring to something they hate is incredible. Go figure. You’d think they’d wise up, and learn the old saw: There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Maybe a little dust isn’t a bad thing.

For more information about QSCC, visit www.qscc.org. Questions? Comments? Contact me at www.forwhomthebilltools.org.

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