Heads dotted the tables. Students smiled, sharing stories in the warmth of the Student Lounge. Chatter danced with the energy in the air at the LGBT Student Mixer. On Aug. 31, a new club took shape.
The Saddleback College Rainbow Collective marks space for the diverse LGBT community at Saddleback College.
Around three in five LGBTQ students aged 18-40 attended a four-year college on a national level, according to the UCLA Williams Institute in a May 2022 report. 33% of these students were bullied, harassed, or assaulted on their campus.
The Rainbow Collective is home to this community at Saddleback.
“The Rainbow Collective wants to create a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students and allies,” according to the club’s mission statement. “By having club meetings, we aim to create a community of students who want to promote acceptance among others while having fun.”
Donnie Mineo, a Career Guidance Specialist at Saddleback, is one of the club’s staff advisors. Growing up in a religious community, Mineo hid his sexuality as a student. Even those who were openly gay never vocalized it. Hiding his identity, he says, became an “addiction cycle”; finding a supportive church became difficult.
The pattern continued into his career, where Mineo still did not disclose his sexuality. Since coming out, he has found support for “all identities under the rainbow.”
Mineo is now head of the Lavender Affinity Group for the South Orange County Community College District. The group advises the district on practices surrounding the LGBT community, including planning, hiring and funding.
“We can all grow as humans if we accept all, and that’s one of those major tenements,” Mineo says. “But somehow, it’s more difficult for some to do that than others. So I would choose to be in the area of caring and loving other people”
At meetings of the college’s Rainbow Collective club, students are able to express their personal experiences.
Jay found out about the Rainbow Collective through the Student Interest Fair. A nonbinary and bisexual student, Jay was interested in finding voices to talk to within the LGBT community.
“I have recently been getting more into finding people in the community, finding voices to talk to,” Jay said. “The queer community in any space has been, like even if there’s not a strong vocal presence, there’s always been, like, no matter where you go you know at least one queer person.”
In their community, some students prefer to use pronouns not associated with either male or female genders. Thus, other pronouns may be referenced.
Students interviewed requested that their last name not be used.
Club member Kai grew up autistic, which affected the way they sought an LGBT community.
“There is a lot of stigmatization of neurodiversity within the queer community. There is a lot of acceptability politics going on. A lot of more neurotypical queer people will make fun of neurodivergent queer people for being weird or cringey as a way of, like, gaining more social capital in the rest of the world,” Kai said.
Because of their autism, Kai didn’t feel as strong a desire to seek out a queer community due to social burnout.
“Generally, as an autistic queer person, everyone I meet is just somewhere on that spectrum. Everyone I find myself enjoying their presence,” Kai said.
Dance instructor Steve Rosa has been at Saddleback for six years. As a Rainbow Collective advisor, he feels supported as a nonbinary staff member.
“I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself in some situations or settings,” they said. “Over the years I’ve been able to find my community of faculty and staff and also students…and feel more empowered to really live my truth.”
Rosa said they feel academic communities aren’t built for their community.
“My goal as an educator here is to make sure that our students feel seen,” they said.