LGBTQ Student Center to focus on outreach, visibility

The LGBTQ Student Center opened its doors to all UM students on Aug. 31. Prior to this, the LGBTQ Task Force was created in 2013 and the LGBTQ Implementation Committee in 2014.

One year ago, in September 2015, during the Town Hall meeting with members of the UM community, President Frenk was asked several questions regarding LGBT-friendly housing and stated that “inclusivity is an extremely important priority in building a sense of belonging for all.” Later, in December 2015, the president finally announced the creation of friendly space for the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students in the university –  the LGBTQ Student Center. Now all these plans have been brought to life.

“The opening of this center shows that the school really cares,” said freshman Emma Lam. “This place is not run by students, it is run by faculty, so you have more connection with these people.”

The grand opening of this center was celebrated with pop music, rainbow balloons, ice cream and giveaways: pens, badges and candies. Students and even UM staff members were talking with each other, asking questions about the LGBTQ Center.

“I feel excited, I feel like my family is here. I feel the sense of gratitude because there has been so much support,” said Van Bailey, inaugural director of the center.

Bailey hopes that the center will be a place where people can chill and enjoy every moment. He wants to focus on education and outreach, as well as on entertainment and increasing visibility of LGBTQ people in the university community.

“If you want come to the LGBTQ Center to study – simply do that. We are here for you; we are here to support you. If you want to meet outside the space – email me, I’m very accessible. If you just want to talk to somebody, I am here,” Bailey said.

It is Bailey’s first year at UM and he said he considers himself to be a freshman. Nevertheless, his first semester will be chock-full of events and activism.

Toward the end of September, the center will create an educational campaign: short lectures by UM representatives about topics related to the LGBT community. Examples are: “What are five things you need to know about the community?” or “How can you be allied to bisexual and pan communities?”

The center plans to celebrate Bisexual and Pansexual Visibility Day in the center on Sept. 23 and will also collaborate with SpectrUM – the undergraduate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and ally organization – to host events during Coming-Out Week in the middle of October and Ibis Pride Month in April, when a large parade is going to be held in order to raise awareness about LGBT people.

“We really needed LGBTQ Center, honestly. You need somewhere … people may not be comfortable coming to SpectrUM, for example. Students can come here and have all the resources and have someone professional to be here and help them,” said Nicole Gilleland, a member of SpectrUM.

During the Town Hall meeting a year ago, SpectrUM was very concerned about LGBT-friendly housing, restrooms and resources for UM. Several student leaders from this organization requested the creation of a special place in the center of campus providing resources for students as well as a full-time staff member to assist LGBT students. President Frenk was open to this idea.

“I’m super happy because it’s nice to have a place for LGBTQ people, specifically because there are so many LGBTQ people down here in Miami, so it’s great for them to finally have a permanent space,” said senior Morgan Greene, an LGBT ally.

The LGBTQ Student Center is located on the second floor of the UC in room 2300K.

Feature image courtesy Pixabay user marybettiniblank