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Friday, December 19, 2014

LGBTQ Resource Center celebrates 3 years

‘We are definitely a welcoming campus’

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Nate Christian, left, lets out a celebratory laugh while Ashton Ruiz and Anaubrey Shannon raise clumps of rainbow-colored balloons near the Anthropology Building on Wednesday. UNM’s LGBTQ Resource Center marked its third year on campus with an event that afternoon. Besides free food, the celebration featured disc jockey performances and a drag show.

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Rainbow-colored balloons filled a grassy patch beside the Anthropology Building as UNM’s LGBTQ Resource Center celebrated its third anniversary Wednesday afternoon.

LGBTQ Resource Center Director Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos said the past three years have been a “success” for the organization. But she said there is still room for improvement, and that she aims to make the center more accessible to the University community.

“As we continue to grow we hope to be more successful,” she said. “We want to make sure that all our staff and faculty at UNM can access the resource center. We want to make sure that the LGBTQ community at UNM feel supported.”

Silva-Banuelos said the center planned the event over the summer. She said the center scheduled disc jockey performances and a drag show and distributed free food at the event. The resource center ensured that there would be “plenty of rainbows at this event.”
About 100 people showed up.

The party became more sentimental because of the this week’s legalization of same-sex marriage in Bernalillo County, Silva-Banuelos said.

“I can only say that it’s perfect timing,” she said. “The day it happened, there was a rainbow over Albuquerque. Today, we’re using this anniversary as a celebration not only for UNM, but also for the entire state.”

Bernalillo County Second Judicial District Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage Monday afternoon. The decision, issued by judge Alan Malott, makes Bernalillo the third county in the state to allow same-sex marriage.

Last week, Doña Ana County approved same-sex marriage, followed by Santa Fe County. On Tuesday, San Miguel, Valencia and Taos Counties started handing out same-sex marriage licenses.
Silva-Banuelos said the ruling will “strengthen the relationship between the city and the University.”

Although Silva-Banuelos said UNM is friendly to the LGBTQ community, she said the administration could improve the gay atmosphere on campus. She said the University should encourage the recruitment of more LGBTQ organizations from out of state.

“We are definitely a welcoming campus, but we can get better,” she said. “We will become a very, very strong presence in this campus, and even more welcoming. The LGBTQ Resource Center is putting UNM in the national map.”

Various organizations, both from inside and outside UNM, passed out fliers and managed tables at the event.

Justin Zeigler, a volunteer at N’MPower, a local LGBTQ organization, said his group planned to “hand out condoms and lubes to make people safe” and to inform the University community about HIV. Zeigler said he applauds the efforts of the resource center.

“Any organization that seeks to empower people and the queer community is worthy of celebrating. It’s an amazing thing, and we are really happy to be here and offer our support,” he said.

Zeigler, who just moved to Albuquerque, said the event was a perfect way to celebrate the recent gay marriage ruling in the city. He said he is ecstatic about the court’s decision.

“I moved here from the Midwest, so it’s a new place for me, but it’s been really good,” he said. “I called my friends, and I said, ‘I’m living in a city where we’re respected. That’s amazing.’ I’m really proud of Albuquerque.”

Summer Little, director of UNM’s Women’s Resource Center, said her organization attended the event because it deeply supports the LGBTQ Resource Center. She said it “creates a safe space so all of us can succeed.”

And her organization will continue doing so, Little said.
“Historically, LGBTQ communities have been marginalized, suffered violence, suffered discrimination,” she said. “So any work that we can do with anyone on campus to address those issues will help the campus move forward and be more accepting and loving.”

Little said the WRC has worked with the resource center through events, such as film screenings and speakers, in the past. She said the two organizations are planning events for this semester.

Little said the University should continue to support the LGBTQ center’s initiatives. She said it should create universal restrooms on campus and fund the LGBTQ Resource Center fully.

“I would love for them to be out of the basement,” she said.

“Their physical space is in a basement on campus, and that’s not accessible for people with disabilities. That has to change somehow.”

But she said she is optimistic about the resource center’s future.
“We’ll be around to celebrate their 40th anniversary,” she said.