IN 2011, a handful of students and alumni from Harding University—a Church of Christ college in Searcy—created a zine, titled “State of the Gay,” to educate the community on LGBT rights and cultivate a supportive community. It swiftly became a front-burner issue, stirring controversy and much-needed conversation. Seven years later, in April of this year, a different group of students took the helm of the HU Queer Press in an effort to make the campus, according to the zine, a “more loving and accepting place.” In a matter of hours, copies of the zine were removed by campus security, with the campus newspaper stating the distributors disregarded the university policy of approval before release. But the message continued to spread through social media posts and tweets. For members of the anonymously published HU Queer Press, or HUQP 2.0, the experience has been a case study in how powerful words can make a meaningful change in a community.

On the beginning stages of the process:

“It was a lot of work. I kind of scoured around and asked some sources, trying to figure out who the original writers were. Luckily, one of them was in Little Rock. We got coffee and talked about the possibility of doing a new edition. They were very supportive. I already had a lot of LGBT friends on campus, so I started talking to my friends about it. I remember sitting in my classes and writing out things I wanted to do—how to distribute, how to get writers, what kind of format we’d be doing. It was all very quick. I had all of my writers after spring break. After that, it was just editing and formatting and getting distributions plans together.”

On the feedback they received:

“I was very emotional. The day that we released it, I had two hours of sleep the night before, getting everything ready—working on the website, stapling the copies. I was very tired and scared, and also just really nervous. We really tried to make it as open and as loving as possible, but I was still afraid that people would react very hatefully. Whenever I saw people reacting positively, whether straight or not, it made me feel like all of the stress I had for those two months was not for nothing, that I actually was helping people. One of the really heavy—but also really good—things that I got to experience was I had an onslaught of emails from LGBT students that had no idea that there were other LGBT students on campus. Even people who are straight were speaking out and thanking us. We had an overwhelmingly big response. We had a few professors reaching out and encouraging us as well, so that was really awesome.”

On starting a dialogue:

“It’s hard to know where—especially on a campus like this—your friends stand sometimes. A lot of people don’t really know who to come out to, how to come out, or if they even should. I think whenever LGBT people on campus see their friends sharing stuff like this and reacting positively to it, it makes them feel safer. That was another goal—for it to be a dialogue. I think for that dialogue to start, it helped students to either find people who they know are safe to talk to about it or it helped them feel more confident, like, Oh, I’m not the only one. I’m not alone on campus. Before I released [the zine], I met a couple of people who had been at Harding for years and just didn’t know anyone. I think a lot of the positive responses helped the campus become a little more inclusive, and helped people be aware, like, Oh, some of my friends might be LGBT.

On how student and teacher perspectives on coming out have changed since the original HUQP in 2011:

“I think, honestly, it’s a little bit more safe to be out on campus now. I, myself, as well as some other students I know, all are out and don’t really hide it on campus. Most people leave us alone. The administration and the handbook really haven’t changed, and the fear that goes along dealing with the administration hasn’t changed. [The 2018-2019 Harding student handbook states: “Students are prohibited from being married to or dating a person of the same sex.”] But there are safe places on campus. There are safe professors on campus. I think that the campus and the student body are way more open to it than in the past years, but I think there’s still a lot of that fear.”