Mixed-gender student housing, the proliferation of homosexual student resources centers, queer cultural programming and health insurance that caters to the transgendered were just some of the milestones heralded recently to mark the rise of prominence of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer community at colleges across California over the last 20 years.
The “UQ Conference: 20 Years of LGBT Campus Progress,” was held Saturday at the University of California-Riverside. More than 300 people – many of whom are leaders of the LGBTQ movement on their respective California campuses – attended to celebrate the community’s “progress” and call for more action to that end.
Since 1993, the number of LGBTQ centers at colleges across California has gone from zero to 26, including centers at nearly every University of California campus, according to conference organizers.
They also noted gains such as the development of programs to offer students minors in LGBTQ studies, mixed-sex housing at some campuses, the UC system’s support of domestic partner health and retirement benefits, and “transgender-inclusive” health insurance.
“At one count, UCLA had 24 – yes, 24 – different LGBT organizations, mostly for students,” Charles Outcalt, founding director of UCLA LGBT Center, is quoted as saying by UCR Today. “In the end, all the struggles, all the protests, all the meetings, all the studies and hard work and tears and happiness are about who we are, and who we love. Whoever you are, and whomever you love, take a moment to be proud of yourself, and celebrate yourself and your communities.”
At the celebration, breakout sessions such as “Beyond Surviving: Students Moving From Religious Oppression to Queer Activism,” “Beyond Binaries: Supporting Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid & Queer (BPFQ) Identified Students” and “Queer Youth Mentoring/Outreach” took place, among others.
UCR Today summarized the sessions by noting “panel moderator Shaun Travers, UC San Diego diversity officer and LGBT Resource Center director, asked (speakers) to share their ‘queer super power.’ Answers ranged from the ‘femme subversiveness’ of Debbie Bazarsky, UC Santa Barbara founding director and current LGBT resource director at Princeton University, to ‘Elastic Man’ Billy Curtis of UC Berkeley, proud of his ability to stretch resources.”
“Other panel topics included the skills needed to direct a campus LGBT center, the ‘lavender ceiling’ for those wanting to move up into administration, and the importance of student activism.”
But not all was peachy keen among attendees, as they bemoaned recent budget cuts to student LGBTQ centers and the streamlining of some campus diversity departments. For example, one breakout session was titled “Responding to the Downsizing of Campus Queer Resource Centers.”
“One critical challenge is to stave off budget driven reorganizations impacting some of our queer resource centers,” Deborah Abbott, founding director of the Cantú Queer Center at UC Santa Cruz, is quoted by UCR Today as saying. “The Cantú Queer Center at UC Santa Cruz is losing one of its two professional staff members–and our only staff person of color. On a campus where nearly one in five students identifies as queer, this downsizing will have a large negative impact on our capacity to provide safety net services and queer cultural programs to our students, staff, faculty, and alumni.”
Click here to read the full report on UCR Today.