Exploring the fluidity of queerness

Read about a guest speaker event hosted by Hamline’s Center for Gender + Sexualities.
Students gather up in Anderson 315 for the Rainbow Keynote speaker hosted by Hamline’s Center for Gender + Sexualities.
Students gather up in Anderson 315 for the Rainbow Keynote speaker hosted by Hamline’s Center for Gender + Sexualities.
Bella Richardson, Oracle

On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 27, students and community members gathered on the third floor of Anderson Center for the 2024 Rainbow Series Keynote event “Queerness is a Body of Water,” featuring guest speaker and Hamline alum Di Nguyen.

The event was hosted by the HU Center for Gender + Sexualities (CG+S), who strove to create a welcoming atmosphere as attendees trickled in and seats began to fill. A pride flag was draped across a table in the back offering free condoms and menstrual products, stickers bearing positive slogans and a selection of treats and soda.
As conversations settled, Nguyen opened their speech with an electrifying poetry performance that cycled through emotional highs and lows, before shifting into a heartfelt introduction and a guided breathwork exercise to bring the audience together.

Nguyen shared photos and anecdotes from their life, including experiences as a first-generation Vietnamese American struggling with expectations and performances of femininity within their social environments. As they navigated college, they eventually began to question their relationship to gender expression, seeking more androgynous and masculine forms of presenting in the world.
This led to the consequential decision to shave their head, which was a choice informed by their connection to spiritual and ancestral guidance. Throughout the speech, they continuously revisited the metaphor of water to symbolize their relationship to gender—allowing themself to shift freely, intaking expressions and experiences that felt validating while moving away from those that did not. They concluded with a lively Q&A session, in which they spoke openly about their life experiences in dialogue with the audience.

After the event formally came to a close, Nguyen spoke about their goals for the event. “Honestly just being in community and sharing my story, and seeing how it landed for folks. … Making sure I was speaking from my heart and being authentic in my identity and journey. That was honestly my only goal, just to make sure I was present,” they said.
Having been originally raised in Minnesota, they currently reside in Tampa, Florida but flew in to attend the event. During their time at Hamline, they studied sociology and made important connections with other Hamline community members, such as organizer Hamline alum Crystal Camacho, whom Nguyen had formerly given a tour to during their time working at the Hamline admissions office. When Camacho reached out to organize the event, Nguyen felt as though the invitation came at a good time.
“I was in the middle of already reflecting on my identity, and it was a good opportunity to share where I was at,” Nguyen said.

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Camacho works as a program assistant for the CG+S where she has programmed other events on campus involving guest speakers, including events for Take Back the Campus and Women’s History Month. They aim to provide alumni with a platform on campus, especially those who occupy marginalized identities or are first-generation students so that current students can connect with and feel represented by those who share their identities and are familiar with the environment of campus.
The creative aspect of this event also appealed to Camacho, who wanted to bring an immersive and engaging experience to campus while simultaneously highlighting the underrepresented demographic of creatives among Hamline alumni. Going forward, she aims to work towards making the CG+Smore inviting and expanding access to resources for those who might not see their own identities represented within that space. This was informed by their own experience feeling as though the center was less approachable during their time at Hamline. Camacho encouraged students to engage with the center and to email, ask questions and give input openly.

June Gromis, a junior student worker who assisted in the production of this event, shared her involvement and goals with CG+S.
“I really wanted to do something where I could help organize my community on campus and create space for queer people, and also coordinate programming and resources that would benefit LGBTQ+ students,” Gromis said.
Gromis underscored Camacho’s points about bringing perspectives to campus that students may not otherwise have access to, and to encourage dialogue and connection among queer-identifying students.
“Our goal is always to put on events that are interesting to students but also allow students to be in community with each other, and also to provide a variety of different resources to different parts of the student body, whether that be menstrual [or] contraceptive health resources. We’re also now working on integrating trans-specific resources and gender-affirming resources as part of our offerings at the center,” Gromis said.

Regarding future event programming, the CG+S will be collaborating with Spectrum for a cross-university “Queer Prom” later this spring.The event will be open to Macalester, Hamline and St. Catherine students, and will take place at the Macalester Ballroom on April 6 at 8:00 p.m..

Nguyen is celebrating the recent release of their chapbook, Kissing God’s Gravel, which is available for purchase online. Outside of poetry, they are also a filmmaker and owner of the sustainable fashion platform Karma Klub. Nguyen can be connected with at @thepoetdi on Instagram or Facebook.
Nguyen concluded with a message for those who might be in the midst of exploring their own identity.
“I think the one thing I would say for any young individual, queer individual, is just have grace with yourself,” Nguyen said. “Breathe. Everything is gonna be okay. I know that’s very basic, but like, deadass. Just have grace and learn what grace looks like in your body.”

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