This Tuesday, dumpster diving students and panhandlers for dining hall guest meals alike have the opportunity for some legitimate free food— and a chance to make friends at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance’s annual ice cream social.

What exactly does an ice cream social look like? Kyle Fowler, the assistant coordinator of the LGBTA, describes it as an open space to meet people. “It’s a giant social for people within the LGBT community, people who might be new to campus, allies,” he said. “It’s just a time for people to come hang out and eat ice cream.”

The event is just one of many put on regularly by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Alliance.

Office Coordinator Kristin Ericson explains what it is: “The Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Alliance is a student run office within the Resource and Outreach Programs on the fifth floor of the Viking Union. We are an office that is a resource for LGBT students and their allies on campus.” Two other popular annual LGBTA events are National Coming Out Day and the HIV/AIDS Charity Drag Show.

Ericson and Fowler stress that the ice cream social, along with all LGBTA events, are open to everyone, including allies. Ericson describes an ally as anyone who supports LGBT people and issues, from being a good friend to becoming an activist for legal rights.

“The ice cream social is for anyone who identifies as an LGBT student or allies, any identity is welcome,” said Ericson. “We want to create an open atmosphere for people to feel safe and have fun, and not feel pressured to be and act a certain way… they can have fun and be themselves.”

The ice cream social—and all LGBTA events—is a safe space where students can be themselves.

Senior Jesse Raymond, a graphic design major and former coordinator of the LGBTA, assures reluctant students. “The LGBTA is really, really big on confidentiality and being a safe space,” he said. “That extends to the event location and the event itself.”

Students who are uncomfortable identifying under a particular label do not need to worry. No assumptions are made about the identities of students at LGBTA events because people of all identities are welcome, which can be especially helpful for new students looking for a place in the community. Ericson recalls how good her first ice cream social felt when she saw that she had the support of LGBT-positive folks.

“[The ice cream social] was a really nice introduction when I was a freshman,” said Ericson. “It was nice to see so many people who were supportive because there were probably a hundred people there the first year I went. It was just nice to get to school and know there was a large community of LGBTA positive people—people who were positive about the community.”
Maxx, a senior and active member of Brown Pride, a club for queer people of color, sees events like this as a chance to break into the LGBT community for students.

“It is harder for first year students to identify as queer—and any other way—to really become part of that social scene in Bellingham because they don’t really know where to start,” he said. “If people already know each other it’s intimidating to get into that whole realm of things. So that’s why the ice cream social is good, so you get to know more people so you don’t have to make an effort, the effort’s been made. You just have to be there.”

The chance to kick it with the LGBT crowd and their allies isn’t enough of a selling point? The ice cream is provided by Mallard Ice Cream & Cafe.

Take Kyle Fowler’s word for it: “Mallard’s ice cream: that’s the best part. Free ice cream, that’s great, but Mallard’s ice cream: amazing.”