OUTsource striving for awareness



By Laura Shrake | @KyKernel

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Cut-out paper hearts signed with personal statements flutter throughout campus and eventually into a trash bag.

Hundreds of signatures fill pages of petitions. A yellow sign declares the space to be a place of “no hate.”

This place, after six years on UK’s campus, has come upon a time of change.

A time when paper hearts in a trash bag can make a statement, petitions can make a difference and a simple yellow construction paper sign on a desk can be a fundamental value of an organization.

Like the hot-button topic of marriage equality and gay rights that is effecting change nationally, the OUTsource, one of UK’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender groups on campus, is striving to restore itself and bring more life and awareness to the volunteer-based program.

“We provide a safe, confidential, affirming space for people to learn more about gender identity, human sexuality and queer issues,” said OUTsource’s Outreach Coordinator Kyle Kleisinger. “Our goal is to change the campus (and community) culture to be more inclusive of LGBT students, faculty and identities in general.”

According to Kleisinger, the “queer” community is an all-encompassing term for those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, pansexual, intersexual, asexual or straight ally.

Kleisinger says that historically, OUTsource has not fully kept up with this mission, having “fallen off the map” in recent years.

But now the organization is turning over a new leaf and bringing OUTsource back on track.

“We’re in the process of rebuilding OUTsource right now,” Kleisinger said. “We want to make it what our mission says we’re set out to do.”

To further fulfill its mission, OUTsource is renovating internally, externally and physically, as well as making steps toward activism.

Internally, one of the changes OUTsource will make is adding to and advertising the availability of resources the organization has to offer.

Sam Howard, OUTsource’s treasurer, has a vision for what the organization can become.

“My personal goal is to re-emphasize this as an academic space,” Howard said. “It’s valuable as a hang-out space and as a community resource to network, but it has the potential to become a gender and queer theory library.”

In general, OUTsource is looking to reorganize and promote the resources they have and obtain new and expanded books, documentaries, DVDs, pamphlets and any other sources that become available to them.

A new academic resource guide will include an article of academic nature that is featured each week or month.

A list of all the gender and queer academic journals that can be found on campus or online will also be included as a new resource for those who visit the OUTsource.

Another internal change OUTsource is making is in its policy and organization of leadership positions.

To prevent the problems that a changing power structure presents, an application process will be added to ensure a smooth crossover of authority in the organization.

“We’re just trying to clean up and rework the policy to where everything is clear so that there’s not going to be a ‘power vacuum’ like there was in the past,” Howard said.

Externally, OUTsource is looking to move toward playing a bigger role in activism.

With several campaigns in response to national attention to gay rights and Kentucky House Bill 279, the organization is becoming more active on campus.

HB 279 has created controversy upon its approval. It focuses on protecting religious freedoms, but, according to Howard, could override the local fairness ordinances that protect equal opportunity in employment, thus affecting those who identify themselves as a part of the queer community.

When HB 279 passed the senate, Howard gathered a group of people from OUTsource to protest and request an override from Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

Finally, OUTsource is renovating itself physically.

The space now, with its front wall being entirely glass, will be getting a curtain to protect confidentiality, according to Kleisinger.

Furthermore, their space will be generally reorganized.

“We’re going to move the desk up so that the volunteer is there to greet whoever comes in,” OUTsource co-director Valerie Pfister said. “We’re also going to reposition our resources so they are better accessible.”

Howard also added that the rest of the space, including a couch, a table and chairs, will be reorganized so that there is more room for separate conversations in the space.

OUTsource will be renovating this weekend and will reveal the “new OUTsource” on Monday.

According to Kleisinger, with the conclusion of this renovation internally, externally and physically, OUTsource hopes to bring the organization out of the gutter and back into play on campus.