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April 26, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Who needs presents when there are picket signs in the trunk of the car? Not Struby Struble. Her best birthday ever didn’t include cake or a party but an impromptu picketing session with her partner, Suzy Day. The couple spent the day at Columbia’s Citizen Jane Film Festival, and they were so inspired that they took to the streets and broke out their “feminists are the majority” and “trust women” signs for a 10-minute feminist protest followed by ice cream and time with friends.
For Suzy and Struby, their activism doesn’t end at spontaneous protests. It’s how they make a living, and it’s what brought them together in the first place.
The pair met in 2006 while working at the MU Women’s Center. At first, Struby was intimidated by Suzy’s experience with feminist issues, particularly her knowledge of the controversial reproductive justice movement. At the same time, Suzy was intimidated by Struby’s “uber-feminist” vibe and her “radicalness.”
They eventually overcame the initial shyness and formed a friendship as co-workers that, through daily emails of feminist quotes and Struby’s persistence, blossomed into a relationship.
Currently, Suzy, 27, is MU’s Women’s Center coordinator. Struby, 29, is MU’s LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator. They work closely on many projects, such as MU’s Vagina Monologues, and they often consult each other for ideas and advice on programming at their centers.
Suzy and Struby brainstorm ways to make Columbia a better place through their social justice efforts. For example, they volunteer for the Center Project, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and ally community space. They also have a running list of ideas for billboard advertisements that would share positive messages such as “equality for all.”
They met through social justice. It is something that dictates many aspects of their relationship, including where they buy their groceries or what cellphone provider they use. But balance is one thing that keeps them going.
The women give each other strength that pushes them to do things they’ve never done before. Struby is hesitant in some situations, such as going to bars, but Suzy takes her out anyway. “I’m learning that it’s courage to trust people who don’t look like me or to trust people who might not know about me,” Struby says. “It’s important to give people the chance to be awesome because they usually are.” Struby is more relaxed and has taught Suzy to unwind. She asks her to sit for a minute and ignore the clock. Suzy learned that a minute with Struby is more important than a minute of work, and it’s OK to stop and enjoy each other’s company.
For Suzy and Struby, activism is never far from their minds, and they have goals for their future. They want to live in Europe for a while, start a nonprofit and get engaged. Even a future engagement is an opportunity for activism. Inevitably, people will ask them when they plan to marry. Suzy responds, “When you make it legal.”
For the time being, they are happy working and making change locally. “We both have a lot of room to grow in our jobs,” Suzy says. “Sexism and homophobia aren’t done here at Mizzou.” Perhaps the easiest way they make change is simply by being in a happy and healthy relationship. Seeing women in committed relationships in college was vital to Struby’s coming out. She is confident that she and Suzy are doing the same for students now.