At Ivy Tech, Love is Love

by Dawn Burns, Academic and Learning Resource Center Assistant

Where in Warsaw can you find LGBTQ+ pride flags, tacos, danceable music, and a five-foot inflatable llama? Ivy Tech’s Love is Love Valentine’s Day party, of course!

ETC. (Equality Transforms Communities…PERIOD) organized and hosted this community event to celebrate love in a safe space regardless of sex and gender. Club president Misael (Eli) Gonzalez had hopes that guests would feel “like part of a new family and get impacted in a positive way with all the love our space provides.” By all accounts and with 40 people in attendance, his goal was more than met.

ETC. began when club co-advisor Nic Spangle, Director of Enrollment Services and Student Success, discovered that there wasn’t much research on supporting queer community college students. With adjunct sociology professor Jewel Flitcraft, Spangle launched ETC. in 2018 with a mission to show pride in the queer community by creating and participating in outreach events, parades, and discussions for acceptance.

The club now meets weekly and has become a safe space for students to be themselves, which is “a commodity in our highly conservative community,” says Spangle.

The Love is Love party grew out of ETC.’s desire to provide additional safe spaces for younger community members, specifically the high school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).

GSA faculty sponsor Megan Dinse said of the event, “I saw teens who are quiet and guarded at school, but Friday night they were in their element. They were authentic and let their guard down. I saw smiles bigger than I’ve ever seen before! It made my heart happy.”

One of the high school students who attended the event was excited because “we were with our friends and other people who are like us.”

Spangle describes becoming emotional as he saw “older people with their spouses and children having a good time, college students eating and having fun, high schoolers singing karaoke, and some as young as 13 decked out in their make-up and earrings voguing to the music.”

Dinse, who attended with her wife and daughter, says, “We all need people, places and activities that allow us to be who we really are without fear of judgment.”

“As a leader in the community and as Indiana’s largest post-secondary educational institution, Ivy Tech Community College has a responsibility to use our power and privilege to drive positive change,” says Allyn Decker, Vice Chancellor for Ivy Tech Warsaw. “Many students in our community have been marginalized and feel unsafe. We are working to create a safe and welcoming space for everyone.”

“We are a small club, but a mighty club,” Spangle says, reflecting on ETC. and the substantial impact of this one event on the larger community. Plans are already underway for the next ETC. event, a health fair during LGBT Health Awareness Week in March.

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