By Jessica Wilson
Since 2016, a Hesston student created “BeLonGTo,” an informal club meant to provide a safe and comfortable environment for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.
“It came out of a desire of students wanting to connect with each other,” says co-sponsor Julie Lehman, Campus counselor and co-sponsor of club.
Since then, the club has been inactive, but not due to lack of effort, a greater number of students sought out a desire for the club.
“Every year I have an announcement about the group, usually in chapel, and invite interested people to be in touch with me,” said Lehman. “Last year one or two talked about it with curiosity, but a group never came together. This year I had three different individuals approach me for more information.”
The club has taken a turn this year with its growing membership and potential impact on the school. Lehman hopes the club could change the way Hesston looks at diversity and maybe open the minds of others.
“My hope for this campus is that it could just normalize the idea that we are all different and we express ourselves differently,” she said. “Just like we are working so hard at creating a safe place for diversity of faith tradition, culture, ethnicity, color. We talk a lot about those things but we don’t talk about gender identity, sexuality as a way of being diverse.”
BeLonGTo accepts and encourages everyone to join in on the meetings which creates safe ways for students to connect and get to know one another. Emily Kauffman, co-sponsor of BeLonGTo expresses ways the club information gets around and what kind of activities might come along.
“We talked about potentially connecting with faculty staff members who are in the LGBT community, hearing their stories, potentially hosting a coffee house on campus,” she said. “The vibe to me is just a casual, fun environment to spend time together knowing that there doesn’t necessarily have to be walls that are put up that maybe they feel like they have to put up in other spaces around campus,” said Kauffman.
Since the group has three members so far, information about meeting times and dates are passed by word of mouth. For more information, contact Julie Lehman or Emily Kauffman.