LGBT center on campus lacks inclusivity, does not support LGBT community

Image By: Morgan Winston

For many university hopefuls from the state of Wisconsin, UW-Madison is a top choice. It seems diverse, inclusive, and “woke” with social issues. Now that we are on campus, we know this perception is far from true.

Frankly, there is an issue with inclusivity and support in spaces that are supposedly created with such intentions.

Let’s talk about the lack of inclusivity in a space that is supposed to be diverse and serve as a resource to those who need it: The (outdated and non-inclusive in naming, although that is a whole other issue) LGBT Campus Center.

The LGBTCC was created to support students as they come to terms with their identities, build pride and network with similar folk around campus and in the community. While at first the center seems to be great for networking, it quickly proves to only be so for a select few.

The LGBTCC is frequented by the same twenty students whose camaraderie runs so deep it intimidates nervous, questioning students from even using the resources offered. It is truly a clique, focused only on networking and bolstering the careers/egos of those fortunate enough to be welcomed.

Additionally, the LGBTCC lacks intersectional diversity. It is incredibly uncomfortable to address issues pertaining to my sexuality and gender identity when I am the only person of my race present at the campus center.

Further, the LGBTCC serves, as it seems, only students from out of the state. Few Wisconsinites — the vast majority of our school’s population — seem to attend, so few folks at the campus center seem to understand what it is truly like to be queer and from rural Wisconsin.

Secondly, the LGBTCC does not handle the concept of pride well. For many UW students (the majority of whom are from Small Town, Wisconsin), being part of the LGBTQIA+ community may not be the easiest thing to be proud of, nor something to ever be publicly proud of. Some of us just simply see it as any other personal trait that makes us who we are. Speaking from personal experience, the clique at the LGBTCC shames people for their lack of, or timidness to express, pride.

Rather than shunning and excluding those who feel ashamed of their identity, the center should be focused on boosting confidence, comfort and, in turn, pride. Sometimes, people need resources and help coming out without it coming across as “pride.” It’s a valid desire. People should only do as they see fit for themselves and as they are comfortable, regardless of their peers’ beliefs on the “right” way to do it.

Finally, the LGBTCC should be more thorough and conscientious in the selection of student employees and volunteers. Again speaking from unfortunate experience, the campus center should be a safe place, not a place for folks to incessantly hit on curious or questioning folks. It should not serve as a “target range” for openly LGB folks to exploit and take advantage of a questioning person’s sexual vulnerability.

Sadly, a student volunteer during the 2016-17 year did not see the campus center as a place for community, but rather a target range for folks like me — nervous and curious men who cannot come forward with their victimization without “outting” himself to family, friends, school administration and/or police officers and the public.

Gabe Javier, the previous LGBTCC director, is not to blame for these faults of the campus center, nor is the current interim director. Javier was the one consistently welcoming person at the center. He has been an excellent director, and I wish him the best in his new role.

My charge, however, is for the search and screen committee to seek a director who will actively address these named issues immediately upon beginning the position.

Seek a director who will build a diverse coalition of welcoming volunteers and visitors—including folks of all races, creeds, places of origin and so on. Seek a director who will truly tell students of all points along the gender and sexuality spectrums, and those at all stages of coming out and having pride, that they are welcome and they are supported.

Lastly, ensure that the behaviors and reputations of the student attendees, volunteers and employees promote safe and inclusive spaces, where consent is something taken seriously and pride is not a requirement of admission.

*Note: The author used a pen-name, as he is not yet publicly “out,” but he is hoping the LGBTCC will improve and can support him in the process of coming out. Additionally, the author sought to protect his privacy as a survivor of sexual violence.

Have you had any experiences with the LGBTCC? What are your thoughts on the inclusivity of the center? Send any questions to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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