Even the president of EAGLE, Christopher Henderson-West said he felt othered by the name “Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone.” The junior, who identifies as bisexual, said the mention of only gay and lesbian identities in the EAGLE acronym made him feel excluded.
On Sept. 5, the group announced a name change for the organization: Emerson’s Advancement Group for Love and Expression.
“Saying ‘Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone’ doesn’t really encompass the queer community in 2018,” EAGLE Vice President Rachel Gaudet said.
In a statement posted on EAGLE’s Facebook page, Henderson-West said the change was necessary for the organization’s membership.
“We have learned more about the unspoken members within our community. We have become more cognizant of erasure,” the statement read. “Which means, there is a problem now. Well, actually the problem has always existed, but we just didn’t realize it.”
Henderson-West mentioned members requested a new name for the organization for years.
“We wanted to do something that really expressed what we wanted to do for Emerson and for the community—not just something about who we represent,” Henderson-West said.
He said when he became president of the organization last year, he spoke to the members of EAGLE about changing the name. The organization did not take action.
“I always say that no one wanted to put in the work to find what goes with the letter L,” Henderson-West said. “By the time we got to the end of this past year I just thought, ‘There’s never going to be a good time to do it, so let’s just go ahead and do it.’”
Gaudet initially suggested the EAGLE acronym stand for “Equity, Action, Guidance, Leadership, and Education.” Henderson-West said EAGLE ended up using that interpretation as a tagline, but went with Emerson’s Advancement Group for Love and Expression because it sounded better as an organization name.
“I think that it’s perfect timing, especially since some of the terms like ‘Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone’ is outdated,” EAGLE member Tatiana Meléndez said. “I’m glad they reevaluated what they are about and are expressing that change.”
Henderson-West stressed the importance keeping the EAGLE acronym, since students on campus knew the organization for it.
“EAGLE has clout. It has a name on campus,” Henderson-West said. “I’m all for sentimental value and I don’t want to change the name completely from something that’s been around for years.”
The organization, founded in 1991, operated under the title “Gays at Emerson.” In 1993, the name changed to Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone and adopted the acronym EAGLE.
“[The name change] was something that was in talk for a bit, but it was just a matter of to what we were going to change it,” said Gaudet. “We didn’t want to take away the history of the organization by getting rid of EAGLE completely.”
Treasurer Kyle Eber said he hoped the name change would reflect their efforts to make EAGLE more inclusive as a whole organization.
“I think the new name is fantastic, because it doesn’t specifically say it’s a queer organization. But then you get ‘love and expression,’” Eber said. “How [the words are] used is really beneficial so people don’t feel ostracized.”
EAGLE hosts annual events that Henderson-West says are a staple for many students on campus. The organization sponsors panels with queer speakers such as author Sarah Prager, showcases drag culture at Emerson every year during Drag-Tober Fest, and hosts a Going Home Conversation every year before winter break for queer students returning home for the holidays.
“One thing we’ve done a lot this year is focus on intersectionality,” Gaudet said. “We’re looking forward to doing collab events with other organizations, particularly other cultural organizations. We don’t want to ignore how different identities intersect and how that might impact a person.”