Out to Lunch Lecture Series

The Out to Lunch Gender, Sexuality and Community Lecture Series (OTL Lecture Series) is a weekly academic lecture and discussion series with guest scholars and community activists from various disciplines examining a variety of topics related to gender identity, gender expression and sexuality. Each semester offers a broad sampling of the existing research and current activism on topics that may include public health, religion, spirituality, business, military, science, K-12 education, families, immigration, literature, politics, law, community organizing, history, violence, race & ethnicity, age, counseling, therapy, sports, romance, policy and many other areas.

Out to Lunch is a interdisciplinary lecture series that focuses on queer studies. All lectures are scheduled for Thursdays at 12:30pm at the Rainbow Center, Student Union 403, unless otherwise posted. Undergraduate students have an option to take the lecture series as a credit-bearing class UNIV 2500, “Gender, Sexuality and Community: Queer Studies in an Interdisciplinary Approach.” One does not have to be enrolled in the class in order to attend any or all of the lectures.

If you are curious about the rosters we have had in the past, please see our list of previous Out to Lunch Lectures.

Fall 2018 roster

September 6: Julia Anderson (she/her/hers); “LGBTQ+ Representation on TV and Why It Matters”

Synopsis:  This presentation will review the GLAAD Media Institute’s “Where We Are On TV 2017-2018” Report and discuss why media representation is important. The presentation will highlight character depictions on TV that have been particularly successful or criticized, and consider what “good” media representation looks like.

Biography: Julia has served within the Rainbow Center since Fall 2016. Beginning as the Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA) Graduate Assistant for the Rainbow Center, she has since stepped into the role of Program Coordinator. Julia’s favorite part of her job is the personal connections she is able to make with students and colleagues at UConn. She helps to oversee the FYE class taught in the Rainbow Center, the FAMILEE mentoring program, and the Husky Ally Safe Zone training program, among other things. In her spare time, she loves to read, kayak, nap, bake, and find good local food.

September 13: Lauren Perez-Bonilla (she/her/hers); “Dominican bugarrones: Masculinities, (in)Visibilities and Same-sex Performances”

This lecture presentation honors Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15.

Synopsis:  The topic of sex work in the Dominican Republic has been studied by multiple scholars during the past (Brennan, 2004; Cabezas, 2004; Sanchez Taylor, 2006). However, most of these have focused on female sex workers. In a way to break with the above mentioned, the following paper centers in Dominican bugarrones (men who have sex with other men, MSM) and the array of mechanisms they use to protect/impose their masculinity, (decide to) become (in)visible in society, and (successfully) perform for their clients as their only way to make a sustainable living. By employing an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the topic I seek to present the humane side of sex work(ers) while including their voices and experiences to the overall academic conversation regarding the matter.

Biography: Lauren M. Perez-Bonilla is a current PhD student in the Geography department at the University of Connecticut (UConn). She holds a master’s degree in International Studies and two graduate certificates; one in Human Rights and another in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) from UConn as well. Previous to this, she earned her B.A. in Social Sciences with a minor in International Relations in 2015 from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus (UPR-RP). Her research interests include –but are not limited to– masculinities, HIV/AIDS, sex work(ers) in the Caribbean, and the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to discreet/sensitive data.

September 20: Jen Bonardi (she/her/hers); “Tiggy Upland the Wild Deuce”

This lecture presentation honors the Bisexual/Pansexual Awareness Day, September 23, 2018.

Synopsis: Tiggy will share ideas from her book, Advice from a Wild Deuce. This will include a couple of advice requests/responses, bisexual-specific coming out tips, intersectionality & synergy, and the joy of labels. In the second half of the program Tiggy’s creator, Jen Bonardi, will appear in order to talk about being a bisexual after college.

Biography:  Tiggy Upland, the Wild Deuce, wrote the Ask Tiggy advice column for the Bisexual Resource Center and Bi Women Quarterly from 2011 – 2015. During those years, she was also a four-time M.C. for the bi-themed variety show, Bilicious, and created the You Might Be a Bisexual Tumblr blog. From spring of 2016 through spring of 2017, Tiggy starred in Upland, a bisexual webcomic of miniatures set in a hostel in Boston.  She was named “Bi Writer of the Year” at the 2017 Bisexual Book Awards for writing Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy and was nominated for 2018 Boston Pride Marshall.

September 27: Jennifer Petro (she/her/hers); “Mental Health Allyship: Increasing Access to Gender Affirming Medical Care as a Public Health Intervention for Suicide Reduction ”

This lecture presentation is part of the annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Campaign at the University of Connecticut.

Synopsis: Research indicates that access to gender affirming medical care, including hormones and gender affirming surgeries, can greatly reduce suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for transgender individuals. As a part of Suicide Prevention Week at UConn, this presentation offers an opportunity to learn more about evaluations done by psychologists and other mental health professionals for individuals seeking gender affirming medical interventions such as hormones or gender affirming surgeries. The aim is to demystify this process and empower transgender individuals with information as well as educate mental health providers who wish to expand their knowledge base, thereby creating a wider and stronger net of mental health support for transgender people in our community.

Biography: Jennifer Petro, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and the Assistant Director, Director of Training, at Counseling and Mental Health Services at UConn. She has worked in college mental health for over 15 years and has developed increasing specialization in working with individuals who identify as transgender/gender non-conforming. In addition to her work at UConn, she maintains a small private practice providing individual therapy and psychological evaluations for people seeking gender affirming medical care.

October 4: Cynthia Melédez (she/hers/hers); “Queering Testimony: Artivism, Queer Memory, and Identity in Peru”

This lecture presentation honors Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15.

Synopsis: In this talk, Melédez will discuss the construction of memory in post-terrorism Peru. Specifically, her research focuses on the work of LGBTIQ artivists who use the arts to “queer the archive” of national memory, inclusion, and justice. Looking at two theater plays and other objects created by collectives and individual artists, she will explore how these activists use testimony inside their performances to construct queer identity and address the political necessities of LGBTIQ people within the larger social context of Peru. Moreover, she will consider how these pieces can point to further possibilities regarding our theorizing of queerness, and memory.

Biography: Cynthia Meléndez is currently pursuing a PhD in Literatures, Cultures and Languages at University of Connecticut. Prior to this work, Cynthia earned a Master in Arts in Latin American Studies and a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in Photography. She uses these mediums to explore issues of gender, race, place, space, identity and belonging. A native of Peru, Cynthia attended Pontifical Catholic University of Peru where she earned a bachelors degree in Hispanic Literature in addition to engaging in performing arts and gaining a professional certificate of Photography. Her latest research focuses on LGBTIQ Peruvian identity, space, and artivism in social justice work.


October 11:  Julia Anderson (she/her/hers); “Complicating ‘Coming Out’”

This lecture presentation honors the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2018.

Synopsis:  This presentation will review the history of the phrase “Coming Out,” the history of “National Coming Out Day,” and the current realities of coming out. Julia will consider the way that beliefs about “coming out” have been both positive and negative influences on the coming out process, as well as how to respond when someone comes out to you.

Biography: Julia has served within the Rainbow Center since Fall 2016. Beginning as the Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA) Graduate Assistant for the Rainbow Center, she has since stepped into the role of Program Coordinator. Julia’s favorite part of her job is the personal connections she is able to make with students and colleagues at UConn. She helps to oversee the FYE class taught in the Rainbow Center, the FAMILEE mentoring program, and the Husky Ally Safe Zone training program, among other things. In her spare time, she loves to read, kayak, nap, bake, and find good local food.

October 18:  Allison Warren (she/her/hers); “Attitudes, Beliefs, and Reactions: The development of an intervention for professionals working with transgender and gender nonconforming older adults”

This lecture presentation honors the International Pronouns Day, October 17, 2018.

Synopsis: Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) older adults are an underserved and understudied population. Healthy aging among gender minorities may be inhibited by social isolation, disproportionate poverty and health disparities, and a lack of access to culturally competent care, services, and supports. This lecture will highlight the experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming older adults in the United States and also provide a brief overview of how social systems that perpetuate cisnormativity and cissexism contribute to the social and economic challenges faced by gender minorities. Our discussion will include a thorough review of a study comparing the efficacy of three online interventions designed to increase self-efficacy for affirming interactions between aging-focused professionals and older adults. Finally, we will consider how cisgender individuals might utilize their social positions to serve as advocates for transgender and gender nonconforming people of all ages.

Biography: Allison Warren, PhD is an Advanced Fellow in Health Services Research & Development in the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Her research has focused on the experiences of older sexual and gender minorities and explicating the ways aging-focused providers might create affirming environments for these vulnerable populations. Dr. Warren hopes to continue this line of research, specifically focusing on improving care for transgender and gender nonconforming Veterans within the VA system..


October 25:  Patricia Newcombe (she/her/hers); “Intersexuality and the Law”

This lecture presentation honors Intersex Awareness Day, October 26, 2018.

Synopsis:  Pat Newcombe will provide an overview of the many issues involved in the discussion of intersexuality and the law: the medical intervention for individuals with intersex traits and its legal framework, the confines of treating gender as a binary system, discrimination against intersex individuals, the human rights issues surrounding intersexuality, the impact of the intersex activist movement and its intersection with other movements, some foreign approaches to intersexuality, and possible U.S. judicial and statutory reforms.

Biography: Pat Newcombe has served as the Associate Dean for Library and Information Resources at Western New England University School of Law since 2011. She is an Associate Professor of Law and teaches Lawyering Skills, Advanced Lawyering Skills, and Advanced Legal Research. Dean Newcombe serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate of Hampden County. A graduate of Western New England University School of Law, she also served as the Articles Editor for the Western New England Law Review.

November 1: Christopher Cayari (he/him/his); “Who Am I? I Am What I Am! A Story Told Through Broadway Music”

Synopsis:  Who Am I? I Am What I Am is an hour-long musical theater review that depicts LGBTQIA+ characters in a performance you will not soon forget! Dr. Christopher Cayari tells his story through music theater songs, original prose, and verse. As a K-12 music teacher, Christopher avoided the topic of sexuality in his classroom; he used to think that LGBTQIA+ issues had no place in school. Join him as he shares his journey of acceptance, empowerment, and activism that began when he realized that portraying LGBTQIA+ characters through song and on stage was not only appropriate for young people, but also necessary for the representation of this population. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be entertained! Songs from the musicals Rent, Bare: A Pop Opera, La Cage aux Folles, 13, Altar Boyz, and 35mm.

Biography: Christopher Cayari is an assistant professor of music education at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. He holds a Ph.D. and M.M.E. in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor’s degree in music education from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. His research agenda addresses marginalized voices in music education, specifically LGBTQ+ individuals and Asian Americans. Christopher is an activist for marginalized populations. He uses music and education as a platform for social change. His activist work has earned him the 2018 Outstanding Ally Award, given by the Purdue University LGBTQ Center, and the Top 10 Under 40 Award from Tippy Connect Young Professionals.

November 8: Emily Pagano (she/her/hers); “Bars, Booze, & the LGBT Community: Examining Intersections of Social Identity & Substance Use”

Synopsis: Significant disparities exist in rates of alcohol and tobacco use across social identity groups—the LGBT community in particular reporting elevated use.  This interactive lecture & discussion will explore these disparities, examining the ways in which history has influenced LGBT culture, and discussing marketing strategies exhibited by the alcohol and tobacco industries to challenge participants to consider the impacts of targeted advertising to the LGBT community. The session will conclude by exploring opportunities to address disparities in substance use and contribute to deepening queer liberation from systems of oppression.

Biography: Emily Pagano serves as the Alcohol & Other Drug Education Coordinator for Wellness and Prevention Services at UConn. She received a Master of Science in Student Affairs from Colorado State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College, in Sociology and Gender Studies. Emily also completed interdisciplinary undergraduate work through the Five College Program in Culture, Health, & Science, focusing on how social systems impact individual and community wellness.  Prior to joining the Wellness and Prevention Services team at UConn, Emily worked as a Health Educator at Wesleyan University and Trinity College, responsible for her passion, alcohol and other drug prevention/intervention.  At the University of Connecticut, Emily manages Alcohol & Other Drug Education services, regularly presenting on alcohol and marijuana, and providing individual support to students.  She is particularly interested in engaging in prevention work from a social justice lens which recognizes the reality of how systems of oppression influence health.

November 15: Jack Gieseking (he/him/his); “Constellations of Queer History in New York City, 1983-2008”

Synopsis: In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau writes that “What the map cuts up, the story cuts across.” But what if the everyday stories you seek are already cut up by centuries of structural inequality and oppression, such as those of lesbians and queer women? Further, does “not tiny” data ever qualify as big enough when marginalized people do not have the resources to produce, self-categorize, analyze, store, or map “big data”? In this talk, I explore what can be illuminated in the study of queer lives and spaces by bringing together the isolated but overlapping stories of lesbians and queer women in maps, from the hand-drawn to the most technologically advanced and interactive. Drawing upon qualitative and quantitative work on lesbians’ and queer women’s spaces and economies in New York City from 1983 to 2008–including multi-generational focus groups and mental maps, archival research, and GIS–I pat special attention to how the size of data matters to lesbians in the production of their historical geographies. Most data collected about lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and queer (LGBTQ) people throughout history has only been used to pathologize and stigmatize. Gathered at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, I draw on the Archive’s LGBTQ organizing history dataset, the largest dataset known to exist on LGBTQ activist history, as well as the resulting data visualizations. I examine the place of lesbians and queer women in the geospatial big data debates even through the production of a not “big” enough dataset. I suggest that society’s obsession with big data further oppresses the marginalized by creating a false norm to which they are never able to measure up. Drawing upon a queer feminist and critical geographic perspective, I argue that a wide range of imbricated scales of data exist which upend the big-small data binary.

Biography:  Professor Gieseking (pronouns: he/him/his) works at the intersections of critical urban and digital geographies, and feminist and queer theory. His research is engaged in research on co-productions of space and identity in digital and material environments, with a focus on sexual and gender identities. He pays special attention to how such productions support or inhibit social, spatial, and economic justice, as well as how research can be made public and accessible to those who need it most. Gieseking’s first book examined the production of lesbian and queer spaces in New York City as they relate to capital around the turn of the century.  He argues that contemporary urban lesbians and queers often create and rely on fragmented places and fleeting experiences in those places. Like drawing lines between the stars that come and go in the sky, lesbians and queers are connected by overlapping, embodied paths and stories that culturally and politically bind them in their ways of making urban space.  He calls this pattern constellations.  Gieseking’s first monograph, A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers, 1983-2008 (NYU Press, 2020), is a historical geography of contemporary lesbian and queer politics, culture, and economies in New York City.  Jack Gieseking is an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky.


November 22: There is no lecture presentation due to Thanksgiving Break

November 29: Sheldon Raymore (he/him/his); “Two Spirit – Past, Present, and Future”

This lecture presentation honors Native American Awareness Month at the University of Connecticut (November) and World AIDS Day (December 1).

Synopsis: Sheldon Raymore will speak about the concept of Two Spirit people and their places in today’s contemporary Indigenous societies.  The term “Two-Spirit” is a pan-indigenous term agreed upon in 1990 at an Indigenous LGBTQ gathering in Manitoba, Canada.  The term is intended to unite Indigenous Cisgender & Transgender, gender fluid, gender queer, and gender non-conforming people under one spirit name.  The concept of being Two-Spirit can be translated from many Native cultures and languages.  Two Spirit people in the histories of many Native peoples were revered and uplifted by their respected tribes before the devastating effects of colonization.  Two Spirit people in fact predate the modern LGBTQ movement.  In preparation of World AIDS Day presenter will share some of the current data, PSA materials, and information in relation to the effects that HIV/AIDS has had on the Two-Spirit population.

Biography: Sheldon Raymore is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and lives in New York City.  He’s a Native American Storyteller, 2nd Generation Tipi Maker, Visual Artist, Actor, Choreographer, Cultural Consultant, and an award winning Grass Dancer.  Since 2014 his mission has been to increase HIV/AIDS awareness, sexual health education, and accessibility of PrEP services for the Two Spirit community and beyond.  He is the creator of www.PrEPahHontoz.com which provides an enriching awareness experience, with culturally competent and appropriate methods of increasing PrEP awareness. The PrEPahHontoz Tipi project has toured all over the United States and as far away as Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The Tipi Project decreases social and cultural stigma’s associated with HIV/AIDS, and HIV Prevention. It also disseminates correct information about HIV and it’s history in the Native American community, while utilizing “culture as prevention.”

December 6: Micah Heumann (he/him/his) & Sara Heumann (she/her/hers); “Growing Up Trans: from the perspective of a parent of a transgender child”

Synopsis: Raising a child who identifies as transgender presents many different challenges than raising a cisgender child. Micah and Sara’s son Daniel invited his parents in that he is transgender when he was seven years old (although Daniel knew this much earlier). Through this, the Heumanns, as a family, have overcome many obstacles, and learned a lot along the way. Please come to this discussion on raising a child who identifies as transgender, and hear their family’s story and ask your questions about the whole process. This will be an opportunity for attendees to ask the questions they have always wanted to ask, but have not had the appropriate forum to do so.

NB: The Heumann family was highlighted in the “Growing Up Trans” installment of the PBS’s show, Frontline. To view that episode, visit https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/growing-up-trans/.

Biographies:  Micah Heumann, Master of Arts in Psychology, has previously served as president of Homestead Corporation, a non-profit creating affordable housing for low-income families and individuals, and Uniting Pride Center, a non-profit multi-service agency of the LGBTQ community of Champaign County, Illinois. He has collaborated in research identifying and bringing attention to microaggressions committed against domestic students of color in the Academic Advising environment and currently serves as an Academic Advisor in the Academic Center for Exploratory Students at UConn.

Sara Heumann, holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois, where she went on to work as a school social worker and house parent for teenage girls experiencing emotional difficulties. More recently Sara continued her work supporting others in child labor as a doula, gestational surrogate, and then later returned to school to pursue her interest in skin health. She happily takes care of her clients’ skin as a licensed esthetician at Hope and Wellness. Sara enjoys yoga, nature and spending time with her family, friends and animals. She and Micah have been married since 2002, and enjoys going to hear music together and taking hikes.