Triangle Coalition offers a safe space for LGBTQ students

Triangle Coalition hosted an ice cream social to invite all students to meet new people.
Senior Ashe Kolieboi and Triangle Coalition President Josh Barton lead an ice cream social on Wednesday at the Women's Center in Brady Commons. Students discussed the year's plans for Triangle Coalition, including trying to amend the UM system's non-discrimination policy to include gender identity.

There is no judgment here.

At the Triangle Coalition's ice cream social on Wednesday, the message was loud, proud and clear: Everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, was welcome to eat some lavender honey ice cream and meet new people.

Triangle Coalition President Josh Barton addressed the group of about 25 students and staff members, asking the attendees to introduce themselves to the room. The introductions were typical - name, year, major - with a twist: "Tell us who your favorite superhero is," Barton said. "Mine's Storm."

Triangle Coalition has existed at MU since the mid-1980s and is the longest-standing organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and allied students. The group provides a safe-space environment for students, not excluding anyone interested in participating in Triangle Coalition events.

"We provide a space for students to be comfortable with who they are," Barton said.

To do this, Triangle Coalition works to make its presence known around campus, handing out pamphlets and setting up camp at Summer Welcome.

"In the first couple of weeks we get a social atmosphere, so we can introduce people and show them that there are other gay and queer people on campus," Barton said.

Triangle Coalition provides a transition from organizations such as high school Gay-Straight Alliances to college life as well as a welcoming safe zone to which some students have never been introduced.

"The GSA at my high school failed because it was too discriminatory," sophomore Lee Anne Jones said. "Coming here, I felt so free."

Taylor Clark was one of several freshmen at the social who responded to Triangle Coalition's outreach.

"I heard a lot of good things about it, and I am definitely a supporter of the cause," she said.

Triangle Coalition works with two other campus organizations, Allies in Action and Gamma Rho Lambda sorority. Sophomore Tracy Pfeiffer is the president of the progressive sorority, which founded its MU colony in 2007.

"Our main focus is providing a safe space," Pfeiffer said of her sorority, which is not gender-specific. "We don't call ourselves LGBTQ because we are all-inclusive."

Although the respective agendas for the three organizations deal primarily with guest speakers and varied programming, one major political issue remains in the forefront of problems facing MU's LGBTQ community. Barton said Triangle Coalition is generally not big on politics, as they are non-partisan.

However, MU's non-discrimination policy, while including sexual orientation, does not include gender identity. Triangle Coalition, Allies in Action, Gamma Rho Lambda and other organizations are working to change this clause.

But for this particular event, the priority was simply to have fun and meet new people.

After everyone finished initial introductions, Barton announced it was time for an icebreaker game, one in which someone physically imitates an animal and everyone else guesses what that person is.

Triangle Coalition Vice President Ashe Kolieboi demonstrated by raising his right foot up behind his left knee.

"See?" he said. "I'm a flamingo."

The room erupted in laughter, and the game continued.

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