On Saturday, nearly 30 students from the School of Music’s LGBTQ affinity group “OutLoud” collected around a fireplace in the Institute of Sacred Music’s Miller Hall living room for a candid roundtable dinner and discussion about what it means to be a queer artist in the 21st century. The discussion also featured speakers from the Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music.
“It was set up like an actual roundtable, with a big circle with armchairs, couches, a few plastic chairs, some tables in the middle — we were really trying to steer clear of a presenter-audience feel to keep the discussion open and inviting,” said OutLoud co-founder and president Antonia Chandler MUS ’18 ’19.
In the fall of 2017, Chandler founded OutLoud with Joshua Thompson MUS ’17 ’18. It was the School of Music’s first official student organization.
“It was really important,” said Chandler. “[The School of Music] was the only school to not have an ‘outs’ group.”
Many of Yale’s graduate and professional schools have official LGBTQ affinity groups, with the word “out” featured in their names: the Divinity School’s “DivOut,” the Drama School’s “ActOut,” the School of Architecture’s “Outlines” and the Law School’s “Outlaws.” Chandler and Thompson followed the same naming convention for the School of Music’s group. Recently, OutLoud attended LGBTQ mixers with other graduate and professional groups.
Since there was no precedent for University-supported student organizations at the School of Music, Chandler said that figuring out the procedures for becoming official was a “slow process” that proved challenging.
Yet, Chandler and OutLoud vice president Jon Salamon MUS ’17 ’23 wanted to “figure out earnestly how to get funding and official status.” The Graduate and Professional Student Senate provided the group with initial start-up funding for organizational expenses and the group was officially recognized as a student organization in February 2018.
After meetings with the School of Music staff and faculty, including School of Music Dean Robert Blocker and Deputy Dean Melvin Chen, Chandler said that “they were very supportive of the project.”
OutLoud is also inclusive of allies of the LGBTQ community. Chandler noted that one of the reasons the group wanted to welcome allies was to make “everyone feel comfortable with joining OutLoud.” The intentional, all-inclusive nature of the group allows those who are not open about their sexuality to feel comfortable joining the organization.
In a survey distributed by the School of Music’s graduate and professional student senators Griffin Botts MUS ’20 and Salamon last fall, students indicated that they wanted more of a sense of community. While the highly selective graduate school accepts only around 100 students every year, each musician follows an individualized, busy personal schedule. A typical day for a School of Music student is packed with rehearsals, private lessons and music courses. Often, students from different disciplines — such as violin performance and composition — do not have opportunities to cross paths. There is neither a central location for School of Music housing nor a specific dining hall for the School of Music students.
In the survey, many students requested an LGBTQ community group, which gave Chandler the sense that students throughout the School of Music felt that the time had come for an established student group of this kind.
“The membership [of OutLoud] has been really reflective of that,” said Chander. “Almost 25 percent of the School is in OutLoud’s membership.”
OutLoud has been committed to holding events throughout the year. Every two weeks, OutLoud holds “LGBTeas” on Monday during lunch hours in the student lounge of the Adams Center for Musical Arts. The event offers tea, cookies and coffee as well as resources provided by the University including pronoun buttons and stickers voicing support of trans rights.
Chandler noted that it is a “casual way” for people to get involved.
Salamon said that the organization is “really important in dealing with LGBTQ+ issues,” noting that the organization represents the School of Music at University-wide LGBTQ+ events. He said that without OutLoud, the School of Music “ is looked over in terms of resources and events.”
“It’s kind of like a beacon,” he said.
Chandler said that because the group is official, OutLoud can use the School of Music’s name. She considers becoming “official” in the eyes of the University and School of Music a huge step for the organization.
Students who attended the roundtable on Saturday spoke to the impact of the event.
“Identity is based in community and the beautiful thing about community is that no ideology is ever fixed,” said School of Music composer Frances Pollock MUS ’19.
Pollock said that “people change, prejudices are confronted and progress happens” when people start to acknowledge a mutual humanity despite differences. She noted that “there is a lot of evidence to suggest that life for queer people is getting better, especially in progressive communities like Yale.”
Pollock added that she is “so proud of the YSM students who started OutLoud because it opens the School of Music to more resources to support student lead events like this round table.”
“Sacred spaces — especially organized religion — need the vitality of the queer community, even though they don’t know how desperately they need us yet,” said Divinity School student Paul Reese, who helped lead the roundtable event.
Reese, a male-bodied, pansexual, gender nonbinary person of color, identifies as a member of a group of artists who are “uniquely positioned in the arts and in sacred spaces because they find themselves on the fringes of the fringes: located in perspectives beyond the outsider.”
“These places, where both arts and sacrality struggle to identity, define, and classify, are where change and innovation, and creativity are grown,” Reese added.
Reese views events like Saturday’s roundtable as “an opportunity for queer artists to gather in solidarity with each other and work on the problem of how to exist in a way that is less and less motivated by fear and survival and more and more motivated by imagination and possibility.”
Chandler and Salamon said they are planning an OutLoud volunteer event at a local soup kitchen for the Yale Day of Service. The group may also hold a hike to East Rock Park or a visit to the Yale University Art Gallery. The pair said that their main goal is to ensure the longevity of OutLoud so that LGBTQ students and allies can continue to feel a sense of community at the School of Music.
Allison Park | firstname.lastname@example.org