Spotlight: Shannon Khurana

Shannon Khurana

CLAS 2018

Tell me about the organizations you are involved with on Grounds.
“My journey began in the Queer Community as a volunteer at the LGBTQ center. Staffing the desk once a week gave me a lot of insight into all the programming both the Queer Student Union and LGBTQ Center were putting on. I quickly was able to make friends and find support. I had just recently come out to family and was struggling to stay afloat. Today my love for the queer community largely comes from the debt I owe to it when I was experiencing troublesome times and my desire to pave a place for people of color in queer spaces. I currently serve as the Vice President of Student Activism in QSU and as the Speakers Bureau Intern for the LGBTQ Center. That has led to many of the co-sponsored events with organizations such as LSA and beyond. Making intersectionality an inherent part of the community is a slow process but one I am ready to keep pushing forward. I hope to one day attend law school and focus into civil rights in my career. Interning at the women’s center’s legal clinic was then a great fit as the missions of the women’s center along with my personal aspirations flowed together nicely. I am proud to be serving in those spaces.”

What is one project/campaign you are currently working on?

“I am always working on a number of projects. In the past in QSU I have worked on lobbying for gender neutral housing and currently oversee a committee to ensure the successful roll out of HRL’s new “Open Housing” option – which has all the accommodations of gender neutral housing and more. Last semester my committee and I piloted a positive representation library by carefully reviewing queer media and creating listings of books, movies, and music that shine light on and uplift the queer community. Those media pieces are now available in Levering Hall thanks to the WGS department. This semester my committee and I are working on creating a new student mentorship program. This resource has not previously been available for the LGBTQ community and we hope to pilot it soon.

Through the Women’s Center Free Legal Clinic I am pulling together a ‘Transgender Name Change and Rights Clinic’. Knowing many trans people are already using the UVA hospital as a safe place to seek out safe and empathetic medical assistance it is about time a legal clinic aiding that community was instituted.”

Today my love for the queer community largely comes from the debt I owe to it when I was experiencing troublesome times and my desire to pave a place for people of color in queer spaces.

What is it like being a minority leader?

“It’s a mixed experience. Every minority leader will tell you how they become a walking token for important conversations that need a representative from their respective community. It is frustrating that our view points are not otherwise covered. Often it can also feel like initiatives to help the minority community have been exported on to the students, but at the same time it is a great feeling to know that the power is in our hands to make progress. There are moments were I want nothing more than to burn down the house, but I know that burning down this house will leave us with nothing. It is then my prerogative to help build and bolster the long term safety and success of my peers through patient negotiation and incremental steps of thoughtful progress.”

What is the greatest challenge facing the minority community today? How can we overcome this challenge?

“The greatest challenge in the minority community today is the lack of allyship and the creation of a hierarchy of which community has it the worst. For me this points to two recommended steps forward. The first is to remain introspective of what your community can do better. For instance, in QSU we could do more to create more space for different kinds of queer people other than LGB and create more targeted programming for queer people of color. (This is coming this semester, just y’all wait and see). The second step is dedicated outreach. No fight for equality exists in a vacuum and we can all do more to make sure we are standing up for each other, even if one community arguably has nothing to offer the other at the surface level. Advocacy means empathy. Activism is healing.”

No fight for equality exists in a vacuum and we can all do more to make sure we are standing up for each other, even if one community arguably has nothing to offer the other at the surface level.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to other minority students at UVA?

“Listen, listen, listen, and don’t make assumptions based on one bad experience or misspeaking community member. Fight to make your community better and stand in solidarity with issues facing the minority community as a whole even if you don’t have a direct stake of identity in them.”