Queer (De)Coded, a Roundtable Roundup

The Women’s Center’s Roundtable series is underway! On October 20th, we hosted the second of our three-part roundtable “Our Bodies, Ourselves” series. Queer (De)Coded focused on women and queer coding, deconstructing how women and femme individuals utilize and present their bodies in order to appear more or less queer. Queer coding is when individuals hint with their bodies and mannerisms their identity without explicitly stating their sexuality or gender identity.


For this discussion, we invited staff member Elle Trusz, UMBC alum Juliette Seymour, and community member Melissa Smith to begin the roundtable dialogue with their own thoughts and perspectives related to queer coding. Elle opened up the conversation, discussing what it is like to be in relationships that are read as straight but are actually queer. She explained that walking down the street with her “husbutch”- or female spouse- could sometimes be seen by others as a straight couple based upon how both individuals present themselves.

Juliette also had interesting input into what it is like being a queer person who appears straight and cisgendered within their own life. Juliette discussed how their appearance sometimes made it more possible to be in spaces that may or may not be LGBTQIA+ friendly, yet it also felt like taking a step back into the closet. Melissa brought up the different ways her queer embodiment shows up in her workplace and the critical ways she is being present in all of her identities in order to make more space for others like her.


After initial remarks, the discussion turned to what “queer” looks like, who can present as queer, and the intersections that can emerge when facing different personal identities. The discussion of what it looks like to be queer and privileged identities was brought to the table. Elle discussed her privilege as she recounted instances where her queer identity was more protected based upon her whiteness. Melissa discussed her own identity as a black queer person and how the layers of both these identities can be challenging in our heteronormative, white-centric world. The UMBC Outlist became a part of our discussion and the ways in which this list can also send messages of acceptable or not-acceptable queer presentation on campus and in professional settings in general.

A large portion of the conversation turned to religion and queerness. Melissa spoke very candidly about her own conflicts within religion, and the conversation opened up for the audience. Many people shared their own experiences with religion and their individual queer identities.

Overall, the dialogue we shared with each other as a learning community was deep (and only scratching the surface at the same time) and meaningful and can’t be entirely captured in such a short summary. Thanks to our panel members and participants for making Queer (De)Coded a success and creating a conversation around the many ways we embody queer identities within our daily lives.

Don’t Forget, our last roundtable of the semester,Fatness in Focus, will take place on November 30th, at 4pm in The Women’s Center!

Couldn’t make it to this roundtable? No worries! Here are some resources that further delve into the topic of queer coding and embodied queerness.

Staff member Dan Wiley’s piece on queer hair from the Women’s Center’s Blog

Femme- Butch taught privileges, Everyday Feminism  

Comic debunking assumptions about queer femme bodies

Autostraddle article looking at queercrip fashion

Helpful UMBC LGBTQ Online Resources

The UMBC Outlist 

Student Life’s LGBTQ Resources 

UMBC’s LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association 


Slaying on the Weekly: Voting and Other Important Things

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!


October 20th was the last of the Presidential Debate series. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and soon it’ll be time to vote. While it’s too late to register online, you can register in person (if you live in Maryland) on November 3rd.nvt3

Critical Social Justice is NEXT WEEK! Be sure to join us, and our campus partners, during the CSJ events happening from October 24th- 28th. Also, check out our series on the Women’s Center Blog on things you need to know about our Keynote Speaker, Disability Justice and Residential Segregation.


Equally important, I want to make sure we are all taking care of ourselves. Engage in whatever self-care practices make you feel the best. Express and allow yourself to feel the emotions you have! The Women’s Center, The Mosaic Center, the Queer Student Lounge and the Counseling Center are campus resources that are here to help with that process.

Until next week!

Revisiting Male Privilege


A Women’s Center Blog post and reflection by student staff member Daniel

On September 22, 2014, I published my first Women’s Center blog post, titled “Male Privilege in Women’s Spaces.”  In it I shared my anxieties about joining the Women’s Center staff and reflected on my male privilege. I thought about what my role or place might be and how I could manage my privilege in a healthy and productive way.

I want to begin my last year at the Women’s Center the same way I began my first year here. I want to think about and complicate my male privilege and how I show up in the Women’s Center and other women-centric spaces.


Fall 2014 Women’s Center Staff

A lot of things have changed in the two years since I published that first post. After serving my terms in student org leadership, I’m now much less involved; I’ve watched freshmen and sophomores step forward and take positions I once held and do a better job than I or my predecessors did. My trans identity has evolved and my understanding of my relationship to the world has changed. My perspective on privilege is different now and I’ve learned that reflecting on my privilege makes me a better leader. I’m a third-year staff member and I often find myself in leadership and mentor roles, meaning this self-reflection is even more important than it was when I first started.

2016-17 Staff Photo True Grit

2016-17 Women’s Center Staff

When I wrote my original blog post, I had been on testosterone for nearly a year and solidly identified as Male. I wrote from the perspective of someone who identified with a privileged group and I was reconciling male identity with feminist identity; I felt like I needed to make up for seeming like a traitor who joined the patriarchy. Plus, I had a lot of unprocessed feelings about losing the camaraderie I shared with women and learned that some spaces just weren’t for me anymore.

Now, things are more complicated. It’s been three years since I started medically transitioning. I’ve legally changed all my documents and had surgery. I’m more male-passing than ever, but this is the least I’ve identified with maleness since I came out.

It would be easy to deny my male privilege by claiming a queer, non-binary identity. It would be easy to say I don’t experience male privilege because I don’t identify as male, but it wouldn’t be true. I still exist in this world as a male-passing individual and the world treats me as such. I still benefit from male privilege when I’m awarded more authority on a subject in conversation or more time to talk than my femme- and female-identified counterparts. I don’t get interrupted and I’m given more space. My queerness doesn’t change this and it doesn’t excuse me from perpetuating sexism or ignoring the ways male privilege has advantaged me in life. Trans men and masculine trans people are equally as responsible for perpetuating and participating in transmisogyny as cis men. We don’t get a free pass just because we may have once identified as women.

Of course, it’s important to understand how being queer and trans and fat and mentally ill have disadvantaged me in life, but they don’t negate the impact of the privilege I receive from being male and white. And while this self-reflection is important and necessary, it doesn’t excuse me from having to do something about my privilege.

I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve been guilty of letting others’ praise of me as “a good guy” in queer or feminist circles be enough proof that I’m not one of Those Guys. I’ve also been guilty of patting myself on the back just for acknowledging that I have privilege.

I hope my friends, classmates, and coworkers feel like they can call me on my shit, but that’s not their job. It’s my job to be actively combatting my privilege. It’s my job to be mindful of interrupting people, taking up too much physical and conversational space, giving credit where credit is due, and never concluding that my work is done. It’s my job to say, “This issue it important to me. How can I be of help to you?”

It’s also my job as a masculine trans person to be aware of (and do something about) how my passing privilege (as well as the economic and healthcare advantages that made my transition possible) makes me safer than gender non-conforming and non-passing trans people, how being trans masculine is safer than being trans feminine, and how race and white privilege are major factors in the safety of trans people.

Being a third-year staff member at the Women’s Center means I’m in a leadership and mentoring position, and I feel it’s important to think about privilege when I’m collaborating and working with other student staff. I think about how my coworkers might approach a problem or a project differently because of their experiences (and the things I might miss because of mine) and how working here for longer than my coworkers doesn’t mean I know more than anyone else. I’m wary of how my maleness and my whiteness puts me in a position of power and authority, so purposely taking steps to create a non-hierarchical relationship with my peers is a priority.  

I’m ready for the new challenges and learning opportunities coming my way this year. I’m excited to meet all the people who use the space and offer our services and resources to the best of my ability. I’m excited to be in a place where I understand the role I play here, and I’m excited to continue to grow and learn from the amazing people and stories I encounter. And, I’m excited to walk away from this place knowing there are newer people with better ideas, fresher enthusiasm, and more drive to enact change ready to replace me.


Beauty Embodied Resources Round-up


The Women’s Center has officially kicked off our roundtable series for the fall semester! We call this series Our Bodies, Ourselves, specifically focusing on personal embodiment and the intersections of identity that come along with existing as a body. This event, specifically called Beauty Embodied, introduced the semester-long discussion of diverse embodied experiences.


our beautiful roundtable flyer

Beginning this ongoing series, The Women’s Center invited three panelists to open up the conversation of embodied beauty. Alumnus Crystal Ogar, Dr. Medulene Shomali of the Gender and Women’s Studies department, and our very own assistant director Megan Tagle Adams served as our panelists!

We spent the next hour complicating the notions of beauty, femininity and privileges associated with who gets to embrace ideals of beauty. All panelists spoke about the privilege and racialization of specific beauty standards and stereotypes. We discussed at great length who has access to conventional beauty. Women of color specifically have a lot of challenges associating with conventional beauty, as the hegemonic view of westernized beauty is white, thin and able-bodied. All panelists identified as women of color, and were able to draw upon their various identities to share their experiences with racially exclusionary beauty.

Crystal encouraged us to find the beauty within everyone, to notice the little things that make a person beautiful, and to complicate beauty further by understanding that looks are not the complete picture of a person, as there are so many factors that go into being a beautiful human outside of external appearance.


Our roundtable panelists, photo by jess Myers

Both Megan and Dr. Shomali allowed the group time to deconstruct our definitions of beauty. Beauty and femme identity isn’t inherently a feminist stance to take, and shaving your legs or putting on makeup in the morning doesn’t necessarily have to be a feminist act. No one is more or less of a feminist for the way that they present their bodies. Megan said it best- instead of the feminist manifesto being written in red lipstick, she suggested that it could be written while wearing red lipstick. The act of wearing lipstick is not what makes or breaks a feminist, and the most important thing is to allow personal expression to be encompassed in ideals of beauty.

Dr. Shomali took it even further, proposing the radical notion that beauty isn’t actually necessary. Instead of trying to broaden the term of “beauty” to include all walks of people, we could decide to throw out beauty as an important concept to begin with. Both Crystal and Dr. Shomali posed that ‘ugly’ should not equal “bad”, and that it is perfectly fine to not be beautiful- it does not take away of a person’s humanness to not have access to or even care about beauty.

Overall, Beauty Embodied was a great success, with lots of dynamic discussion from the panelists and the women’s center communities. We questioned and unpacked our notions of beauty and femininity, engaging with our own experiences of living in an aesthetic world.

Want to read more? Below are some links further discussing beauty through a feminist lens:

Don’t miss out! The Women’s Center’s next roundtable, Queer (De)Coded, on October 20th! 

Women’s Center 25 Then vs. Now #6: 25 Years of Events and Programs

WC 25 Logo - PurpleThe Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

This week we’re featuring a sampling of the various events and programs hosted in the Women’s Center over the past 25 years. 



The very first Returning Women Students group took place in 1996. This group still is an critical part of the Women’s Center programming and has also morphed into a scholarship program.


The Clothesline Project is an artivism display the Women’s Center exhibits during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Even in 2006, the Women’s Center was just as dedicated to telling the stories of survivors as they are today.


Before the era of Netflix and Youtube, the Women’s Center (in co-sponsorship with other departments) held film series which spotlighted women’s voices and experiences.




While our editing skills have definitely grown since 1991, we have remained dedicated to critical social justice and centering the voices of women. Be sure to join us for our Critical Social Justice Keynote speaker, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.


What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!

Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!

Slaying on the Weekly: Prison Reform and other Cool Things

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

This week I watched Do I Sound Gay? on Netflix. It’s an interesting documentary which explores the origin of the ‘gay voice’. It’s also available on Youtube.


As we prepare for the October Roundtable, Queer (De)coded, some of the Women’s Center staff are re-reading Women’s Center staff member, Daniel Wiley’s post on ‘Gay Hair‘. Check it out!


Finally, in worldly news, President Obama shortened the sentences of 102 inmates who committed non-violent crimes. This makes 774 commuted sentences in the entirety of his presidency! We applaud Pres. Obama’s commitment to prison reform!

Continue to slay! See you next week!


Across Worlds and Identities: The Spaces in Between

Prachi KocharA reflection by Women’s Center staff member Prachi Kochar on identity and “fitting in”. How do we navigate identities that can fit into multiple categories of nationality, ability, race, etc. at once? Or identities that do not perfectly fit into these categories, spilling out and crashing into each other? 

This summer, I went to India for my cousin’s wedding, and it was a long trip both physically (twenty-four hours of traveling, with a layover!) and mentally. Even though it has technically been over for months, it continues to affect the way that I think and view the world. It has deepened my understanding of how I navigate the world, both in terms of my physical location and in terms of social situations and relationships.

Before this trip, I had assumed that India was nothing more or less than a second home to my parents, that it was their equivalent of me coming home from school for winter or summer vacation. However, after an interaction with some distant relatives, my mother turned to me and shook her head, saying “They act like we’re not even Indian!” Continue reading