Presenting Queer Voices

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For the presentation of Tyler Murphy’s Senior Media Fellow project, “Queer Voices,” Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, the Media Fellows advisor, decided to dim the lights.

On Monday in Watson Forum, senior Media Fellows presented their projects, which ranged from posters and websites to short documentaries and creative videos. Murphy, who started the project at the beginning of this semester and finished it early last week, felt personally connected to the video he produced. “Queer Voices” is an avant-garde video spotlighting real experiences within the queer community at DePauw through art and poetry.

Initially I was going to do a different project completely,” Murphy said. “But then our professor, JNP, Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, he sent out this email that was like ‘be conscious that whatever you make is going to be seen by people and we have the ability as media creators to have an effect on people, and what do you want that effect to be?’ and it made me start thinking, maybe I don’t want to do a reality show, and maybe I wanted to do something that was more personal.”

Nichols-Pethick said that he felt touched that his words influenced Murphy to produce the video that he made.

“It was kind of lyrical and metaphorical. I just found it really beautiful,” Nichols-Pethick said. “I was also very proud of him that he decided to work on something that would give voice to people that don’t often have wide-exposure or ideas that have wide-exposure in our culture. I was just very proud of him [that] night.”

Murphy began his project with the intent to capture those voices through a non-narrative, poetic form in order to let those voices speak for themselves.

“I put out an open call to anybody who identified as LGBTQ to have this place to share their stories, share their music, maybe their art, things like that, and I initially got a lot of people that wanted to be on board,” Murphy said. “But you know how it is, they’re not being graded on it, so it kind of came down to me having to press people to actually get things done, but luckily … the ones that ended up being involved in it were very passionate about it, particularly poetry.”

Greisy Genao, a junior English writing major and film minor, met Murphy in a film production class they took together last semester and collaborated with Murphy on his project. She held similar views about the importance of representing marginalized voices.

“I think to openly put out work in a field like literature and poetry that’s dominated by, like everything else, white men who have access, I think it’s important to put that narrative out there, that story, to elevate queer identities and identities of women through writing, because it’s not something you usually see,” Genao said. “So if anything, I hope that my writing serves as a mirror for those who don’t feel like they have one or don’t feel like they’re represented in what they’re reading and learning.”

Jackson Bailey, a junior music-studies major who knew Murphy through their fraternity, Delta Upsilon, also wanted to add his voice to the project.

“Sometimes these aspects of the queer experience become cliché or even romanticized with how many movies and stories include tropes involving the coming out process, but I think sometimes they mislead viewers in the reality of many situations,” Bailey said. “I hope these poems both enlighten people who don’t have to experience any of it, and also give other queer people art that they understand and connect with personally.”

The Media Fellows program, according to Nichols-Pethick and Marilyn Culler, the assistant director of the program, aims to instill its students with the ability to tell stories and provide a platform for voices like Bailey’s and Genao’s to be heard, not to mention the voices of the media fellows themselves.

“That’s always been the kind of guiding inspiration for both Marilyn and I,” Nichols-Pethick said. “Are we just giving them technical skills? Are we just getting them internships? Or are we helping them or at least providing opportunities for them to find that voice and experiment and transform themselves. I think in that sense, we succeed, because that’s what I see when I look at those senior projects. I hear their individual voices.”

To Nichols-Pethick, Murphy succeeded in his goal to accurately capture and portray the experiences of members of the LGBTQ community at DePauw in the presentation of his finished video, “Queer Voices.”

“I decided to do … not even a positive representation, but just a representation of actual people in the LGBTQ community on campus and a platform to have their voices heard in a way that wouldn’t be a representation of them, but would be directly what they were saying,” Murphy said. “It wouldn’t be a stereotype … it would be their actual voices.”