by Baylie Clevenger

A rainbow flag tied around a microphone stand and some glitter letters reading “Queer” set the scene. Folks file in, holding colorful programs for the event ahead. It’s a night to share stories and be heard. 

It’s Queer Monologues. 

Unity Week comes around once a year to promote and inspire unity and understanding among Ball State students. Through a series of events, both information and entertainment-based, students use this week to express themselves as well as understand others. QM is one of those events. QM is sponsored by Spectrum and the event features a small cast of queer individuals who share the stage in Pruis Hall to tell their personal stories about the queer experience both in Indiana and at Ball State through a series of monologues.

For Althea McWilliams, a senior Ball State student studying Psychological Science and Women’s and Gender studies, Queer Monologues was a way to express herself in a creative and entertaining way. 

“My favorite part about QM is being able to tell my story in a way that’s comfortable for me. Everyone is extremely supportive and I love that feeling when you know you have the crowd hooked,” she said. “To share my story is a little heart wrenching because it brings up feelings of grief, but it was much needed. It’s a great platform for people in the community to find solidarity and allies to gain some empathy and understanding.  If more people would listen, not just hear stories everyone would have a better understanding of other’s experience and actions.”

The image depicts one of the queer monologues performers positioned on a stool, reading from a book in front of a microphone.

McWilliams is a senior at Ball State studying Psychological Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. She says that empathy is key to understanding others and QM is part of that process. Image by Kellyn Harrison

Though QM can be a place to share some feelings of grief, it’s also a place to feel accepted and create a sense of community and, well, unity. 

According to their website, Unity Week seeks to “…challenge perspectives on matters of diversity, inclusivity and solidarity in an evolving social climate. Unity Week 2020 marks the 40th annual Unity Week celebration at Ball State University.”

Since the university is aiming to create social inclusion, McWilliams reflected on QM and how inclusion is created specifically on campus and through this event. 

“Well I’ve been ‘out’ since I was 12. I don’t necessarily think BSU had an impact, but many students here have fostered safe environments for students to meet each other and have critical conversations to understand our identities,” said McWilliams. “Through those conversations, I’ve been able to better identify my relationship with gender, so that’s been helpful.” 

McWilliams also says that the event was meant to make the experience of oppression feel more real. 

“Empathy is key to understanding someone else’s experience and academia tends to dwindle down the human condition to numbers and facts. This in a way dehumanizes marginalized voices to those of privilege and can even further the social ‘othering’ if the material is not taught by a culturally competent instructor. Events like this are pertinent to give a space to directly to show the reality of  an oppressive experience,” she said. 

Overall, McWilliams said that this event is a positive way to have a voice and give one to others while also connecting with other students in a theatrical way. 

“My personal goal was to be a voice for myself and others who haven’t found their voice. I want people to know they can do it too, even if it seems intimidating. Sharing your story can give you the chance to reclaim the narrative and there’s a sense of empowerment in that. I wanted to give myself the chance to share an intimate, traumatic experience I had that helped shape me into the person I am today. I used it as a chance to give a eulogy I was never given the space to before. This year’s QM was truly transformative and I’m so thankful Brooklyn made it happen.”