By Kiyanna Noel
Interim Director of Events Management Leah Sweeney is bringing back the LGBT peer support group. Before the pandemic, many groups on campus met with each other regularly to discuss ways to move forward and have an impact in the Plattsburgh community. However, COVID-19 put a stop to many things, a lot of groups on campus have fizzled out due to lack of staff and knowledge of certain groups, but this one is coming back both virtually and in person.
The LGBT peer support group is a safe space for members of the LGBT community to express themselves freely without judgment. Although the group will be peer driven, there will also be a licensed professional therapist and senior counselor, Kristina Moquin. Informed consent will be discussed at every meeting. Nothing said at each meeting should be discussed outside of the group without the consent of members.
Sweeney, who co-chairs the LGBT peer support group with Regan Levitte, is excited for the comeback of the support group, especially to bring to light the different kinds of minority groups that are overlooked on campus.
“There is a lack of visibility and spaces [for the LGBTQ+],” Sweeney said. The LGBT community doesn’t have many resources on campus, so the return on the LGBT peer support group is meant to change that. The LGBTQ+ Resource Committee offers different groups led by students and even shows gender inclusive bathrooms on a map, which you can find under the LGBTQ+ Resources on the SUNY Plattsburgh website.
The peer support group also offers different resources for the LGBT members. Through the LGBTQ+ Resource Committee, students can get help pertaining to their specific needs. The support group also has a no violence tolerance policy. If there are conflicts within the group, it will be handled immediately and taken seriously depending on the specific situation.
The topics covered in each meeting are student driven with some guidance by Moquin to ease into comfortably. The conversations can range from anything that the students want to talk about and feel comfortable sharing.
Criminal Justice student Hannah Sudla is excited for this peer group.
“I’m excited to meet people with similar interests and be able to form a bond outside of people in my major,” Sudla said. The return of the LGBTQ+ peer support group can show students like Sudla that they aren’t alone on campus and shine a light on the LGBT community.
Sweeney emphasized the idea of getting to know people within your major can be a struggle when you are in a forced environment, but when understanding someone who has a similar goal or interest in a part of you outside of a classroom or workplace is different. The subjects you talk about, the questions you ask and even the moments you share with them hold a different weight when you know they won’t judge you or they have been through a similar situation.
“Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone that just gets it for the LGBTQ+,” Sweeney explained. The LGBT peer support group creates a comfortable environment for those who feel like others won’t understand them. Having a conversation with someone who can relate to you on that intimate level without feeling alienated.
Anyone interested in joining the support group, in person meetings will be in the Relaford room in Macomb Hall Tuesdays and virtually Thursdays at 3 p.m. bi-weekly. Contact Leah Sweeney at email@example.com for more information.