Rainbows of writing & community

The Rainbow Room, a sub-community of the Iowa Writers’ House, focuses on creating a safe and supportive environment for LGBT writers.


File photo (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

By Lily Goodman
[email protected]

It’s been a rough past year for many Americans, specifically for the various “minority” groups that call the United States home and make up an ever-increasing number of its population. The LGBT community is no exception to this, and fears have arisen among members that many of the basic human rights they’ve worked so hard to secure for decades are now being called into jeopardy by the incoming political
administration’s policies.This is why the Rainbow Room, a sub-community of the Iowa Writers’
House that focuses on creating a safe space for LGBT writers, is so
crucial in generating support for those affected by anti-LGBT laws and

Taking place in the Iowa City Public Library on the first and third
Tuesdays of the months from 6-8 p.m., the Rainbow Room provides
literary lessons, discussions, prompts, and ways to connect with other
members of the community.

The first hour is dedicated to sharing news with attendees, presenting and discussing a topic, and providing prompts, generally followed by free-writing during the second half. Alex Penland, one of the Rainbow Room’s coordinators, said it serves an important role in the LGBT community.

“You can talk about your writing without constantly having to second-guess how open you are with queer themes,” he said. “No one is going to judge you. No one’s going to get off track and tell you how
morally deficient you are.”

Additionally, and likely a result of the support the Rainbow Room provides for its attendees, is something just as important as the safety and acceptance the monthly meetings yield: the writing.

Betsy Casey, one of the concierges for the Rainbow Room, said she believes writing can play an important role in the current political environment.

“Stories have never been more important. I think people in our community will make art however we can,” she said. “But if we write our stories, we can spread our voices further than they might go with
other media, and we can foster empathy, representation, and normalization where right now it might be lacking.”

It is no secret that writing has given vocal expression to those who might not otherwise have it. Many of the world’s most beloved authors have used their work to not only advocate for their cause but to unite
those who are also dealing with similarly difficult situations.

“The most important thing we can do right now is to reach out to each other,” Casey said.

But what makes the Rainbow Room really special, Penland said, is that during the sessions, “we don’t have to talk about being gay.”

“You can talk about writing without having to worry about explanations,” he said. “This frees us up to have an actual discussion, rather than being constantly, if subtly, in an educational space.”

Ultimately, during a time in which the sociopolitical climate is particularly uncertain, the Rainbow Room is a space in which members of the community can let their guards down, feel free to create art, and provide invaluable support for one another.

“You’re safe [here],” Penland said. “There are so many hostile spaces these days — it’s good to have one where you can relax.”

Rainbow Room
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Iowa City Public Library Meeting Room B, 120 S. Linn

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