2021 Pride: Lex Wasniewski ’23 Delves into LGBTQ+ Representation and Family Connections

2021 Pride: Lex Wasniewski ’23 Delves into LGBTQ+ Representation and Family Connections

2021 Pride: Lex Wasniewski ’23 Delves into LGBTQ+ Representation and Family Connections

At John Jay College, we actively aim to create an environment that promotes inclusivity, celebrates differences, and fosters fairness and equality for all. In honor of Pride Month, we’re applauding the strength, talent, and unity of John Jay’s LGBTQ+ community by featuring some of its proudest members.

Lex Wasniewski ’23, a transfer student from Nassau Community College and a Criminology major, is excited about Pride Month for many reasons: the acknowledgment of their community, the connection they can make with other LGBTQ+ members, and bonding with family during Pride activities. “One thing I’ve already done is go to Target with my sisters and get Pride merch,” says Wasniewski, our current Spectra President. “They didn’t have any, so I got to buy some for them, and it was really exciting. They just came out recently and it was this fun thing to do with them.” Last year, when the pandemic was in full swing, like so many, Wasniewski was unable to go to Pride festivities, but they’re looking forward to them now. “We’re ready. My mom, my sisters, we’re all going to Pride this year.” In an effort to educate our community, Wasniewski shared her thoughts about Pride Month, the LGBTQ+ community, Spectra, and the power of representation.

What does Pride Month mean to you?
To me, Pride Month has always been a time where I could see people like me represented. As a kid, the only time I ever saw any LGBT representation was the gay side character in a television show, and their identity wasn’t specifically stated. That was it. That was the representation. I was excited during my first Pride Month because it was the only time I really got to see people in the community being positively talked about. Now, they’ve got rainbow flags in all these different places. I know that half the places don’t really care that much, but I always like to see those flags.

“Pride Month is a time to celebrate just being yourself. It’s also a time to celebrate the sacrifices people made to give our community their rights.” —Lex Wasniewski

Pride Month is a time to celebrate just being yourself. It’s also a time to celebrate the sacrifices people made to give our community their rights. There are so many people who fought for the whole community, and we never heard about them in school, or any place for that matter. Pride Month is the only time I ever hear them even mentioned. So it’s a time to celebrate those activists as well.

What do you hope to see in the future for the LGBTQ+ community?
I definitely hope that schools will teach, even if it’s a little bit, about LGBT history, because growing up I learned absolutely nothing. My school went over the weirdest, smallest events that really didn’t mean anything, and they didn’t go over anything in LGBT history. It’s kind of sad because I had to learn lot of it in college. When I heard about LGBT history in my college classes, I was like, “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?”

Another thing that I hope will happen is that more people talk about the issues facing members of the community. Even within our community, we’re blind to the discrimination that each other is facing. I’ve had gay friends who didn’t know the issues that trans people were facing. They had no clue because they never bothered to really look it up, because it didn’t really affect them personally.

“If we’re all only working for our own specific needs, then we’re never really going to get anywhere.” —Lex Wasniewski

My advice to everyone is to try to open yourself up to what other people are experiencing. We really need to work together and try to fight for each other’s rights. If we’re all only working for our own specific needs, then we’re never really going to get anywhere.

What would you say are some of the biggest issues that the LGBTQ+ community is facing now?
One thing I always think about is representation in the media. If you don’t know a gay person yourself, you might see one on television, and that’s where you’re getting all your information from. If you’re getting it from a really homophobic news site, your view is going to be skewed. That always worries me because I know younger kids watch television and they could see LGBT people portrayed badly.

I actually have a little shelf specifically full of LGBT books. I lend them to my siblings and to my siblings’ friends because they can never find any. Last semester in Spectra, we did a weekly Instagram post highlighting LGBT books—LGBT sci-fi, LGBT romance. I wanted us to see ourselves.

Can you tell us more about Spectra?
It’s John Jay’s LGBTQ+ club. We changed the name last semester from LGBTQ+ Allies Club to Spectra because we wanted to be more inclusive of everyone. We wanted it to be the full spectrum of sexualities and identities. Also, the name is kind of discreet. If we send club merch home, and your family doesn’t really accept you, they won’t fully know or think too hard on it. Spectra is also a place for allies. We want everyone to feel like this is a space that they could belong while they’re at the College.

When I was looking for a school to transfer to, it was a priority of mine that the school have an LGBTQ+ club. This past semester, after coming to John Jay, I immediately wanted to join because I didn’t know anyone at the College. It was fully online, but still a totally accepting, fun, and welcoming community.

Now that you’re the President, what are your hopes for Spectra, especially during Pride Month?
During Pride Month we’re really excited to highlight LGBT businesses and inclusive businesses, the ones that actually support the community. Around this time there’s always a lot of “rainbow capitalism” with companies just trying to make more money. It’s nice when we can support organizations that are in our corner. One of the first posts that we put up was about two LGBT-run companies that make bathing suits that are gender inclusive. They’re these really cool, full-body swimsuits that offer coverage if you need coverage. That’s something that you definitely wouldn’t think about unless you needed it.

We’ve also expanded our WhatsApp groups and chats. We’ve invited other John Jay clubs to use it so we can join each other’s events. We’ve had support from the Environmental Club, Veterans Association, and LASO. Connecting with these other groups at the College is pretty awesome.

“There’s a lot of intersectionality in our community.” —Lex Wasniewski

What do you want people to know about the LGBTQ+ community?
There’s a lot of intersectionality in our community. I’m white, so I have more privilege than other people, but if you’re LGBT and disabled or a person of color, you’re going to face more discrimination than I would. As someone in the community, I want to take that into account when I’m trying to help those in my community who are facing different issues than me. I need to try to make sure that anything I do is inclusive of the struggles they may be facing as well.

What do you want to say to the community about Pride?
Pride is really a time to be yourself. Just remember all the people who came before you and try to support your community and the people around you.