STUDENT STRIVING FOR EQUALITY AND SELF-DISCOVERY

By Chanapa Tantibanchachai, Associate Science Writer

Georgie Zamantakis, a junior honors student double majoring in sociology and gender studies, views their (Zamantakis prefers they/them/theirs pronouns) undergraduate journey at the U not so much as one which prioritizes academic knowledge and accolades, but as one in which an individual can unlearn and relearn truths about him/her/themselves and society as a whole.

This sense of open-mindedness, a willingness to confront conventional ideologies and a desire to reach equity are the key characteristics that define Zamantakis and motivate them to get involved on campus.

Originally from Helper, Utah, Zamantakis came to the U initially wanting to study economics. After taking a gender studies class their freshman year, however, Zamantakis discovered a nurturing space to figure out who they were and decided to change majors.

“Coming to the U allowed me to slowly figure out who I am and where I stand in society. It’s a process of continuous questioning and constant learning,” Zamantakis said.

During their freshman year, Zamantakis was part of the Social Justice Scholars group within the honors college. Later, they participated in a 2013-2014 academic year Praxis Lab titled “Queer Activism & Social Justice,” which examined queer theory and implemented five different queer activism projects.

“The scholars group and Praxis Lab really provided me with spaces of acceptance and opportunities for growth. The tight-knit communities offered in the honors college allow everyone to work together to create solutions as a community and actually put our knowledge to practical use,” Zamantakis said.

Further applying their knowledge towards practical use, Zamantakis used their honors thesis as an opportunity to research the intersections of sexual orientation, race and gender in Utah’s juvenile legal system.

“Queer and trans bodies are often viewed as criminal and hypersexual by the police. In my research, I found that the prison complex doesn’t so much police criminalities, but it more so polices bodies,” Zamantakis explained.

According to Zamantakis’ research, some short-term remedies for this problem include implementing safer sex options in juvenile systems such as providing condoms and educating guards and inmates so queer and trans youth are not targeted as frequently or severely.

Currently, Zamantakis works as the outreach coordinator for the U’s LGBT resource center. In this role, they facilitate panels and coordinate outreach activities.

“The best part of the job for me has been meeting other students and building meaningful, long-lasting relationships. To me, success isn’t defined by gaining notoriety or a high grade in a class, but it’s about the relationships you foster and how they transform you and the other person.”

Most recently, Zamantakis’ journey of introspection and self-discovery led to a creative nonfiction essay titled “Queer,” which recently won the Western Regional Honors Council Award for Creative Nonfiction.

The piece, which is a collection of Zamantakis’ personal experiences growing up queer and how they have grown to create a space for themselves, will be published in Scribendi this April. Scribendi is an annual print publication that publishes creative work from undergraduate honors students in the Western Regional Honors Council and is produced by the University of New Mexico Honors College.

“I think many students, and people in general, fear not fitting in, fear not being the best, etc. But I think it’s important to take risks and that risk should be at core of everything we do. Just being at a university and receiving an education is about risking everything you know to learn something new. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”