Coloring Outside the Lines (COL) is a gay-straight alliance club at Salt Lake Community College. COL promotes equality and diversity among SLCC students, faculty and staff. The club has been in existence for over 10 years.
“We want people to know they can come to COL and not feel judgment. They can be whoever they want to be,” says COL president Cherie Beam.
The focus of COL extends beyond an individual’s sexual orientation or gender binary. The club strives for inclusiveness. Working together COL members offer one another support. They perform community service work and participate in fundraising events that promote equality among the SLCC community.
Students who join COL form a kinship, which serves as a support system. Club members find an atmosphere that’s diverse and free from judgment.
Roque Olmos is an SLCC student majoring in Graphic Design. Olmos joined COL a year ago.
“I love the unique genuine character of our members. We’re probably the world’s biggest misfits, but we fit together,” says Olmos.
Each COL meeting begins with an ice breaker. Club members aren’t required to participate in the ice breaker, but the question is posed in order to break down barriers and to form a sense of unity.
“One of the ice breakers [COL] had discussed was sexual orientation and gender binary,” says Olmos. “After we went around the room and discussed our orientation and how we identify, there was a bonding experience.”
At the age of eighteen, Olmos and his partner were the victims of a hate crime. He has suffered discrimination throughout his life, but he has found acceptance at COL.
“COL has provided a huge comfort, in being able to be myself in public. I never thought I’d be able to identify as a queer gay male and still have the acceptance of strangers, who I now have come to identify as family and friends,” says Olmos.
The comfort that Olmos has found while being a member of COL is an experience that Beam also shares.
In 2010, Beam was the first straight member to be elected president, but she resigned after starting radiation treatment for thyroid cancer.
“Nobody judged me. I had friends from the club that would help me carry my books. If I started crying because I broke a pencil, somebody would be there to listen,” says Beam. “I could pick up the phone and call anybody, which meant a lot.”
The support system that Beam and Olmos have found while being members of COL is something that extends to each individual member, as well as the community.
COL participates in a fundraiser every year for World AIDS Day and in October, the club will be joining the Thayne Center for the annual domestic violence walk.
In June, COL sponsored an event that was hosted by the Klein sisters, which raised over $5,000 for auction items alone. All of the proceeds from the Klein sister’s event went to the Volunteers of America. The money that was raised will be directed towards youth homeless shelters.
During the spring semester, COL will be hosting the Power of I, which is an inclusivity conference.
Beam plans on starting an outreach program with local high schools. She wants to encourage students to start clubs that are similar to COL.
SLCC students, faculty and staff are welcome to join COL. The youngest member is 17 and the oldest is 41.
“COL extends beyond sexual orientation and gender binary. It’s very open to any race or ethnic background,” says Olmos. “There is zero discrimination.”