Queer Student Union’s ‘Queer Movie Night’ teaches students about LGBTQ history, diversity

Max Chambers

Students can learn about the history and diversity of the LGBTQ community through the Queer Student Union’s film screening series.

Sabre Semrau, a junior, started “Queer Movie Night” in 2017. The film series has hosted popular movies like “Love, Simon” and “Booksmart,” but Semrau said she incorporates a variety of genres and stories into the screenings.

“I try and get a very diverse, well-rounded group of movies every semester,” Semrau said. “So I’ll try and do like diverse sexualities, diverse gender expressions, diverse race, religion considerations — and then from like different countries as well.”

Although many LGBTQ students attend the screenings, Semrau said some students who are allies to the LGBTQ community go to Queer Movie Night to learn about the issues their peers face. 

“I think film is a good medium for talking about and bringing attention to queer creators and issues because it tells these stories in a very personal way that people can relate to,” said Semrau. “And it can bring in outsiders who like maybe haven’t had that much experience with queer stories or issues just so that they can have like a new perspective on it.” 

WKU film majors take a film attendance course, which requires them to attend on-campus movie screenings throughout the semester. Students can choose which screenings they attend, but Semrau said Queer Movie Night is unique because it shows a variety of films centered around LGBTQ topics.

Queer Movie Night hosted a screening of “Desert Hearts” — a 1985 film with lesbian main characters — on March 5. Chastity Yocum, a film major who attended the screening, said she picked the movie because she was excited to see herself represented on screen.

“When you’re speaking to an audience it’s good to be able to build this sort of like community and see how audiences might see themselves on screen,” Yocum said. “Someone might have the same experiences as you have.”

Semrau said the film series also boosted WKU’s Campus Pride Index score. The score measures WKU’s “LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices,” according to the Campus Pride Index website. WKU is currently rated three out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index.

“Jeremy McFarland, who was a big queer activist on campus before I came here, he wanted to implement something like this,” Semrau said. “One of the requirements for the Pride Index to be improved was having a regular educational or social queer screening series, so he asked if it was something that I would be interested in, and then I did sort of start it up on my own.”

Queer Movie Night is also sponsored by the Queer Student Union. The screening series connects to its goal of “advocating for the respect and safety of all members of the campus community through events and educational opportunities,” according to the WKU Pride Center’s website.

Semrau said she encourages students to come to the screenings because movies are an easy way for students to consider issues they’ve never thought about before.  

“It’s about telling stories,” Semrau said. “And I think that a lot of social issues can be communicated well through telling personal stories in a way that just connects audiences.”

Queer Movie Nights have been suspended because of WKU’s precautions against coronavirus. Contact the Queer Student Union for questions about whether the film series will be cancelled or “virtualized” as recommended by WKU President Tim Caboni.

Copy Desk Chief Max Chambers can be reached at [email protected] Follow them on Twitter at @chambers_max_e.