Joanna (Jo) Niswonger, a second year student at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette campus, which is a campus of the University of Wisconsin Colleges, is the president of the UW-Marinette LGBT student organization and the student worker at the recently founded LGBT Center. Over the past year, Jo has worked to establish a new organization which serves the campus, and connects to community agencies and providers. Jo has emerged as a public voice and presence, about a still divisive topic, in a small and close knit community. During this semester, Jo will be presenting her own research on non-binary gender identities and pronoun usage at the UW System Women's Studies Conference in Madison, Wisconsin in April. Jo chose this research topic in response to a specific community need, and she plans to use it to help conduct "pronoun training" with local social service agencies in the Marinette, Wisconsin region. Jo has been a remarkable student civic leader on the UW-Marinette campus.
I became involved in the LGBTQIA community when I joined my campus' LGBT student organization. This group helped me expand my comfort zone and gain connections within the community. I have grown more confident in my identity and want to help others do the same, even non-LGBTQIA people can discover their identity. But how were they supposed to gain that knowledge and confidence? There was nothing in our area, or the areas surrounding us, that gave support and a safe space to people like me. When the LGBT Center was opening, I knew I had to apply to be the student worker. This was how I wanted to help people. In society, it can be difficult for LGBTQIA+ people to feel safe, especially in a smaller community. It made it even harder because there were no resources to turn to. With the new center, I've worked to get people in our community the resources they've craved access to, while building connections with community agencies, providers, and working with the public. One need I've been working on addressing is non-binary gender identities and pronoun usage, creating a "pronoun training". People need to be aware of pronouns and how to use them.