CSUN College of Humanties Newsletter
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"A permanent center could offer peer-to-peer counseling, tailored health information and referrals, assistance with discrimination and bullying, and communication workshops on subjects like coming out to friends and family."


In Search of an LGBT Resource Center

Creative writing professor Martin Pousson sees a steady stream of students during his office hours, and many of them aren’t even enrolled in his classes. Pousson enthusiastically welcomes the traffic; as advisor to three lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender–oriented groups on campus, he often sees his office as a de facto LGBT resource center. Nevertheless, his greatest wish is that CSUN’s thousands of minority-sexuality students will soon have a place to seek support beyond the relatively tight confines of his faculty office.

CSUN’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Alliance—which will next year celebrate its 30th anniversary as a chartered student organization—meets weekly but still lacks a regular venue in which to gather. Without such designated space, the group finds it difficult to maintain a campus presence and reach out to the students who may need its support the most. In such a liminal state, LGBTA has largely functioned as a social organization in recent years, with membership typically numbering between 100 and 150. But in fall 2010 those members rose up in response to an alarming nationwide spate of suicides by gay youths. During a vigil to honor the lives of nine gay male teenagers who took their own lives in September 2010, reportedly in response to ongoing harassment and bullying by classmates, a core of LGBTA members found a sense of mission in establishing a resource center to help prevent the kinds of tragedies that drew them together that night.

Such a center would offer safe space to minority-sexuality students, not just during the two hours that LGBTA meets but all week long. A permanent center could offer peer-to-peer counseling, tailored health information and referrals, assistance with discrimination and bullying, and communication workshops on subjects like coming out to friends and family. It could also serve as a locus for the growing number of LGBT social, support, and academic groups on campus. In addition to LGBTA, the university charters a chapter of Gamma Rho Lambda, a lesbian sorority that is inclusive of transgender, bisexual, and allied straight women. Emerging groups also include LGBTQ Ambassadors, a leadership organization that advocates for the inclusion and rights of minority-sexuality campus community members; Queer Studies Students Association, composed of students minoring in the College of Humanities’ Queer Studies program; and the Queer People of Color Committee, a group that grew out of a successful bid to bring the statewide QPOC Conference to CSUN in 2012.

The QPOC Committee could particularly use organizing space now, as its members go about the hard work of planning and financing their conference, slated for the weekend of March 30–April 1. Organizers estimate that they’ll need to raise $25,000 to fund accommodations and services for the event’s workshops, forums, presentations, and other activities. A partner in spirit, the Gender and Women’s Studies Student Association has offered logistical support as well as a pledge to kick off fundraising for the conference. Additional support has come from LGBTA and the University Student Union, but the financial goal remains distant. Visit the event homepage at qpocc2012.org to track fundraising entertainment events or to donate.

Fundraising is also at issue in the establishment of a resource center. Following LGBTA’s resolution at the fall 2010 vigil, a consortium led by the LGBTQ Ambassadors appeared before a presidential board to secure space for a resource center in the University Student Union. That commitment is encouraging, but the allocation could be lost without additional funding: Currently, the consortium has enough to finance the buildout of the available space but nothing left over for ongoing considerations. While volunteers stand eager to staff the space, operating funds must be available to ensure its viability. Nevertheless, Pousson remains ever optimistic. “The center is coming along,” he says, “just much more slowly than any of us would like.”

In the meantime, Pousson notes that LGBT initiatives and events continue to flourish at CSUN. Lt. Dan Choi, an Arabic linguist whose dismissal under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” helped draw national attention to the law’s negative impact on military readiness, addressed the campus during National Coming Out Week; November 14–18 marks Trans Awareness Week, featuring a Transgiving Film Festival November 17; LGBTA will schedule its second High School Resource Fair in early March, offering peer workshops and support to teens; late March brings the QPOC Conference to CSUN; LGBT students and allies will observe the National Day of Silence on April 15, followed by LGBTA’s annual Gay Prom; and in May, LGBTA will host CSUN’s third annual Rainbow Graduation, open to all; last year’s event proved so popular that a larger facility became necessary to accommodate everyone. In short, Pousson promises, “This will be the unofficial Year of the Queer at CSUN!”

— Submitted by Teresa K. Morrison
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