On Tuesdays at 7 p.m., The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) holds a meeting called “Coffee Talk” where its members and any Georgia Southern student can gather and discuss topics involving gender and sexuality minorities (GSM).
According to Dr. Clare Walsh, advisor to GSA, Coffee Talk has been around at least since 2013. The exact date is unknown, as are the original creator’s goals in starting Coffee Talk, but it has since become a popular club event.
“Coffee Talk’s purpose today is to provide a safe and supportive space for those who are members of or to those who support the LGBTQ+ community,” said Dr. Walsh. “It is fairly informal with no set agenda…just folks getting together. I imagine that is how it originated too since safe and supportive spaces for the LGBTQ+ community have been and even still are limited.”
The way Coffee Talk topics are chosen has varied through time. According to Matthew “Zero” Howard, the current Coffee Talk Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Board, topics in the past have been chosen in relation to current events. One meeting last semester focused around parenting in the queer community in response to the introduction of the Georgia State Legislature preventing queer couples from adopting. This semester more topics have been chosen based on general body suggestions and polls. The committee aims to get the general body more involved in their experience with Coffee Talk as well as other GSA events.
“I stepped up as coordinator this semester because I really believe in what Coffee Talk is trying to accomplish,” said Howard. “We seek to provide a safe, informal opportunity for the queer community of Georgia Southern to get together, socialize and talk about topics and issues important to our community.”
Coffee Talk, as the name implies, is a very casual event. About twenty GSA members and other attendees sit in a large circle. Some people sit in chairs, others on the floor or even sharing seats with friends or significant others. Despite the name, coffee is not provided at the meeting (but many people like to get Starbucks beforehand).
Once the meeting starts, the coordinator will usually start off with introductions, encouraging people to share their name, pronouns and maybe something extra. The extra bit usually ends up being news for the week, whether it has to do with school, something personal, or something family related.
Once everyone has shared, the topic is introduced by the coordinator or the club officer in charge, and the floor is left open to everyone in attendance.
On September 11, 2018, the topic that the group discussed was gender expectations in same-sex couples. Ashley Strickland, president of GSA, started club activities that night, introducing the topic and giving her own thoughts on the subject to start off the conversation.
“Coffee Talk is one of my favorite parts of GSA because it’s very casual and conversational,” said Strickland, “It’s a place to share stories and experiences with people who aren’t like you. Coffee Talk is open to anyone who is respectful of the diverse and inclusive environment of the Gay-Straight Alliance of GSU.”
As the discussion progressed, many people around the circle shared their respective thoughts while others seemed content to listen. Many shared their own experiences and brought up multiple issues that became relevant to the conversation. These included gender and sexuality stereotypes, the gender binary, gender roles and masculine and feminine toxicity in society.
The atmosphere in the room remained comfortable and friendly throughout the hour and a half meeting. Everyone was respectful of what others had to say, and the discussion felt more like a conversation between friends. Compliments and laughter came easily. Overall, the experience was very pleasant while discussing relevant social issues.
Towards the end of Coffee Talk, the discussion wound down with a wholesome message. The consensus was to be yourself no matter what society has to say. It’s important that everyone live in a way that makes them feel comfortable and happy with who they are.