The LGBTQ Resource Center opened in August of 2010 thanks to dedicated students who wanted a place on campus to ensure the visibility of LGBTQ students and staff on campus.
Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos, founding director of the Resource Center, said it was started for students who wanted a space that represented them.
These self-organized students were members of the Queer Straight Alliance, a student group founded in 2008. QSA continues to be active on UNM’s campus, organizing an annual drag show in the fall semester as well as work to educate the UNM community and support students.
In 2010 QSA students met UNM administration and student government, and put together a funding proposal for the Resource Center, securing it a home on campus.
Being a student driven initiative means the Center prioritizes student leadership and, with only three professional staff members, the majority of the Center’s programs are run by students.
The Resource Center began in two basement rooms where a full office shared only a few work stations, which meant staff rotated so that everyone could use the desks. They have since taken over the entire basement and were just given an office on the ground floor.
Accessibility is one of the many things the Center focuses on, so acquiring some ground floor space makes their work easier.
Doing work that acknowledges the different aspects of identity and how those aspects intersect is key to the Center, Silva-Bañuelos said.
“We are a part of every community so we wanted to make sure that we are doing programming that makes visible that intersection of identity,” she said.
The Center collaborates on events with different ethnic centers on campus, such as El Centro de la Raza, and groups like the Women’s Resource Center.
“We all have the intention of supporting our community in the best ways we can and by collaborating with each other we can honor intersections of identities and best serve our students and greater community,” said Caitlin Henke, director of the Women’s Resource Center. “The University endorsement and celebration has helped to make pride mainstream.”
Despite its short history, Henke said she believes the growth and the creation of rich programming makes the center a model center for similar programs at other universities.
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The LGBTQ Resource Center has changed the UNM community, including its involvement in Pride events. In the past Johnson Field has been a gathering place for Pride, so the University has been tangentially involved in Pride.
However, the Resource Center encourages different departments at UNM to join with them in marching in Pride, dramatically increasing UNM’s involvement in Pride events around Albuquerque.
Both the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s Resource Center also run booths at Pride Fest, Silva-Bañuelos said.
“UNM being involved in Albuquerque Pride is important because the community sees that UNM is not afraid to stand up for LGBTQ students,” she said.
On top of increasing visibility for LGTBQ students, staff, and faculty on campus, the Resource Center also serves as a confidential reporting site for Title IX violations, she said.
Silva-Bañuelos said this allows people who have experienced discrimination on campus a safe location that will inform them of all of their options moving forward and offer them support.
Prior to the existence of the Resource Center, UNM also had no safe zone training, she said. Now the Center has established safe zone training at the main campus and branch campuses.
Along with providing a safe space and increasing visibility, Silva-Bañuelos said the LGBTQ Resource Center has also actively worked on initiatives that make UNM a more inclusive space. The LGBTQ community in Albuquerque has faced many struggles, she said, such as restroom access, which is a struggle that especially affects trans and gender nonconforming students.
Silva-Bañuelos said, prior to the Universal Restroom Initiative, which is still ongoing, the Women’s Resource Center and the LGBTQ Resource Center were the only buildings on campus with gender neutral restrooms.
Thanks to this initiative both SHAC and the Art Department have gender neutral restrooms available, she said. In the future the Center is hoping to do something in the SUB - perhaps a multi-stall, gender neutral restroom.
Along with restroom access, preferred name use has been an issue for UNM students, Silva-Bañuelos said, as some students have been accused of academic dishonesty for their names not matching records.
To solve this issue, the Resource Center has partnered with the Office of the Registrar, the card office, and IT to create student ID’s that have a preferred name on the front and a legal name on the back, she said, this initiative will be launched next semester.
In its five years of existence, the LGBTQ Resource Center has grown immensely, Silva-Bañuelos said, a result of student activism and the support it provides across campus.
“Before the Resource Center opened its doors there was no place for our community to go,” she said.
Cathy Cooke is a reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.