Alexandra Lahey

Allie Lahey headshot

Alexandra (Allie) Lahey has been an unapologetic queer and feminist activhast and Ohio State Organizer with URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, where she focused on civic engagement, trained and mobilized young Ohioans for reproductive justice. She proudly hails from the Midwest and graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2014 with a BS in Human Development and Family Studies. She was student journalist and chapter leader with URGE, where she led the fight for accessible menstrual products and organized the first intersectional Take Back the Night rally on her campus. As a 2013 Young People For Fellow, she worked on her campus to change sexual assault policies to make resources more accessible for survivors and has been an active alumni dedicated to training the next generation of progressive activists. She also worked previously as an advocate at a domestic violence shelter, and with the American Association of University Women’s Tech Trek, a STEM camp for 8th grade girls. In her spare time, she likes to do trivia, travel, binge-watch Netflix and play with her cat, Mouse.

Details

Location: Bowling Green, OH, United States

    Issues Areas:
  • Reproductive Rights, Health, and Justice

Campus: Bowling Green State University - Bowling Green, OH

Fellowship Class Year: 2013

Blueprint: Online Sexual Assault Prevention Program

Allie envisions a college campus with a variety of resources available to victims/survivors after a sexual assault occurs, as well as proactive educational tools to engage students in discussion surrounding consent early on in their college careers. Allies Blueprint includes an online educational program required by all freshmen on campus, discussing victim-blaming, alcohol and sexual assault, created with input from students on campus and with inclusive images and faces. Allies vision also includes a link to Resources on the front page of the student login portal through the school website so students can easily access information about reporting a sexual assault on campus and to law enforcement and on where to seek support.

Alexandra Lahey's Blog Posts

We Need to Talk About Bisexual Women’s Health

Bisexual erasure is real and it impacts our health.

As a bisexual woman, I see how our experiences are made invisible. Within the mainstream gay and lesbian movements, our workplace, and among our friends and family (“Seeing any cute boys recently?”). Even after I came out six months ago, it seems like most people still assume I’m straight, or that my sexuality is simply a cover for another sexual identity.

I find the same experiences happen within the doctor’s office. I’m rarely asked about the sex I’m having, and when I do seek sexual health care services,  it’s assumed that I am straight. I’m fortunate that I’m able to see a doctor in the first place – a higher proportion of LGBTQ folks are not covered by health insurance compared to heterosexual people. I’m still not out to my therapist as I’m always afraid that she will judge me or not understand my concerns. My experience with my therapist isn’t abnormal, either. Doctors are rarely trained about issues around bisexuality or LGBTQ+ health overall.

One particular study from 2007 suggests that there are worse health outcomes, especially mental health outcomes, for bisexual women compared to both lesbian and straight women. Challenges like self-harm, eating disorders, and depression were found more likely to be faced by bisexual women. From my own experience, there is a lack of support for bisexual women throughout the queer community, including our transfeminine sisters and siblings. If our own folks won’t be there for us, who will?

March is National Women’s History Month, and also rings in the 6th anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Health Care Act into law. I’ve watched the ACA expand coverage to more and more people, especially young people. However, we need to work to uphold and expand health care in the US for marginalized folks, including mental health care for our LGBTQ+ community. We can’t leave bisexual women’s experiences out of the picture of health care expansion any longer, and they need to be taken into account when looking at healthcare reform and expansion.

 

 

Lahey Smiles After Presentation

October is Nervous Breakdown Season: College Students’ Mental Health is a Crisis

I have this photo of me during college. I had wrapped up my presentation on my undergraduate research project that I had partially completed with one of my best friends. It’s taken during late October, which is not only the middle of the semester, but also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when every local women’s-related event happens. While I’m glowing with excitement about my work, when I look at this photograph, what I remember is the complete and utter exhaustion that was my undergraduate experience.

The statistics on mental health and college students are jawdropping. 1 in 4 people between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness. More than 40% of collegs students have felt more than an average amount of stress in the past year. Eighty percent (EIGHTY) have felt overwhelmed, and 45% have felt like things were hopeless.

It’s easy to blame this mental health crisis on personal schedules. But in reality, this isn’t about the priorities of one student, or a small subgroup of young people. We have built a society that expects too much of college students. College students are not only in school full-time, but also are expected to pay most, if not all of their own bills. Depending on where they’re located, a full time job may not even cover their living costs, which means more student loans on top of tens of thousands to cover tuition, just to keep afloat. Working part time and a full course load is already enough; layer on necessary leadership opportunities, unpaid internships, a social life, relationships, sometimes taking care of a child or a sick relative.

These pressures, on top of all of the other stressors that can impact students, are too much for most adults; let alone us with predispositions to develop mental health disorders. Especially considering that in our early twenties is the time where mental health disorders start to show up.  Traumas like sexual and relationship violence, deaths in the family, physical health issues, financial instability, and other oppressive traumas like racism, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, is enough to break someone.

I work with student activists in my daytime work. While I feel so incredibly grateful for being able to surround myself with such young and bold brilliance, I also empathize with the students I work with; I remember the crushing pressure of college and the lifestyle. I see the students I work with struggle every day with balancing everything society expects them to do.

We as a society need to stop brushing off this mental health crisis as a rite of passage for young people. This is not normal. This shouldn’t be considered normal. We need to stop asking students, “what are your priorities?” and start asking ourselves and our communities the same thing. What are we going to do to protect young peoples’ health so they can continue to develop into stable adults?

A student from Bowling Green State University giving a respectful welcome in response to sexist banners

Why You Should Care about Sexist Banners at Your College’s Opening Weekend

“Fathers, drop your daughters off here for freshmen orientation.”
“Daughter drop off”
“We’ll trade beers for girls”
“Fathers, thank you for sending us your daughters.”

I remember my first day of college. I was 16 years old, thrilled that I was admitted to the local university through a post-secondary program at my high school. I didn’t have a parking pass and had to walk a mile to campus, while sweating profusely in the Midwest August heat. I apologized to the graduate assistant about six times for showing up late to class. It was horribly embarrassing and I try to forget about it.

Because I was a high school student and commuted to school, I wasn’t on campus for the welcome weekend festivities, including moving into the residence halls, exploring campus and going out to the bars for the first time.

Maybe I was fortunate that I wasn’t on campus that first weekend, because for years, degrading signs about “freshmen orientation” or “not pulling out” have appeared on the main street across from the college I attended. These signs were commonplace at my school for years, and continue to be as normal over opening weekend as dropping hundreds of dollars on books at the university bookstore.

So – why should we care about these banners? Aren’t they all fun and games? What’s the harm in jokes about sex, right?

It’s easy to notice that many of the signs refer to “fathers” and “daughters.” This reinforces the idea that women are solely defined by their relationships to men, are owned by men in their lives, and that queer women & non-binary people don’t exist. Another example, “we’ll trade beer for girls” is an example of how women are compared to objects. It’s pretty easy to see why these messages are degrading to women. The thing about jokes is that they’re a reflection of our culture and contribute to an environment; this is an echo of sexist culture on college campuses all across the US. Just because it’s a joke, doesn’t give someone a consequence-free shield.

These banners are part of a campus culture that sweeps sexual assault under the rug, despite outcry among students and the growing concern among the general public. Over 50 schools are under investigation for Title IX violations. 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during their college-age years. Sexual assault doesn’t occur in a vacuum; the reinforcing of rape as normal, that men are entitled to sex, that women owe men sex, that men are only the perpetrators and women are only the victims; These mindsets are a part of rape culture. Campus environments that allow these banners to stay up constantly reinforce these ideas about sex and sexual violence.

Don’t young people deserve a safe campus environment? Why is the “fun” of some students (mostly men) a priority over creating a welcoming atmosphere for new students, many of whom are teenagers? Universities say it’s about free speech. No one is asking the community to arrest students for a sign that is degrading towards women.

For concerned students, there are a number of ways to organize around these signs on campus. Hold an open forum so students can talk about their concerns with the signs. Have a positive welcome weekend event that counters the banners. Have someone in your community who has influence (a football coach, university official, city council member, greek organization president) go to the house and simply ask them to take it down. Work with your city council to brainstorm ways to hold neighbors accountable.

Shockingly, there are other ways to “have fun” and talk about sex while not promoting rape culture on campus. The students that create these signs can instead pass out free condoms, create positive or funny signs that don’t degrade women, host a workshop on how to use sex toys or about masturbation, or other ways to talk about sex and sexuality without acting predatorily towards young women on campus and promoting a culture of consent and safety.

University administrators, sports coaches, Greek organizations, and students all across the US – when will you stop prioritizing the “entertainment” of a small group of students and start working towards a more inclusive and safer culture for everyone on college campuses?