Emily Winkelman always knew that she wanted a career where she would be able to use her knowledge and skills to help others. Originally an environmental studies major, Winkelman will graduate this December from Wright State with a bachelor’s degree in women, gender and sexuality studies.
“I made the switch because I believe that as a queer person, it’s very important to help out my community, to do my part to support them and make sure that there are inclusive spaces everywhere,” she said.
Winkelman began that quest to serve her community with the Rainbow Alliance, serving as both president and public relations director. The Rainbow Alliance is a student organization that strives to foster an inclusive, intersectional and diverse environment in the LGBTQIA+ community as well as involve and educate the Wright State community.
She was grateful for the opportunity to serve as the Rainbow Alliance’s president as she felt it enabled her to make a greater contribution. Helping to organize events that provide greater visibility and inclusivity for the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Wright State’s Coming Out Day Celebration, were some of her proudest accomplishments at Wright State.
Most recently, Winkelman helped organize the Rainbow Alliance’s Annual Queer Prom. Last year, the alliance included a gift basket raffle at the event to raise funds for the LGTBQ scholarship. Last year, through community donations, she was able to put together nine baskets, and this year, she was thrilled to be able to double that number.
This year, Queer Prom was preceded by Chosen Family Feast, organized by Wright State’s LGBTQA Center.
While at Wright State, Winkelman also hosted a radio show called “Rainbow Remedy.”
“On the show I would play songs by queer artists or queer allies and talk about LGBTQ issues as well as interview guests about their various issues and struggles,” she said.
Winkelman also interned with the LGBT Center of Greater Dayton.
“Working there made me realize there is a lot of important grunt work to be done behind the scenes,” she said. “I worked on updating their resource guide making sure that their addresses and phone numbers were still accurate and that they still existed. I also worked in their resource library. I felt that both of these tasks were not only important work but also allowed me to become familiar with those resources so that I could help others.”
She said at one point when she was working alone at the center she received a call from a 72-year-old man who had just come out and was looking for information.
“I wasn’t expecting to have to take a call, and since I was new, and didn’t have much experience, I was uncertain what to do at first,” she said. “Then it dawned on me. I just updated their entire resource guide. It felt great to be able to help him.”
Winkelman hopes to continue serving the LGBTQIA+ community beyond Wright State and said she has already begun to do that. She was active in organizing a Pride event in her hometown of Hillsboro, Ohio.
Since Hillsboro is a relatively conservative town, she said she felt that creating a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQIA+ community, in a place where they don’t normally see that, was an accomplishment.
Winkelman suggested that anyone who wishes to organize a similar event should begin by finding people in the community who are like-minded and have similar goals.
“Find your people. Find a small group of like-minded individuals that want to make a difference and have the same goals in mind,” Winkelman said. “Get together on a regular basis whether in person or virtually to plan the event. Keep in mind that there is the potential for backlash. You need to take those things into account and prepare for them. But understand that you are doing this for the people who don’t have a voice, who may not feel comfortable coming out and need that space.”