Editors Note: A previous version of this article stated that the Prism Clinic was an autism service group. It was corrected to state that the Prism Clinic is a free urgent care, primarily serving those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.
Thousands of people across the state identify as LGBT, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. Students at the University of New Mexico have created a number of safe spaces where these titles of "queer" and "student" can intersect.
Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM) was founded in 2018. Jennifer Restrepo, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, was one of the group's original founders. The club has grown significantly since then, with Restrepo acting as the club’s current president.
According to Restrepo, oSTEM meetings highlight academic resources — like networking and resume building — and foster a supportive community for LGBT members. Among other events, oSTEM hosts discussion panels. Panelists share their experience as LGBT members in their professions.
"We try and take feedback from our members to figure out what they actually want to see. We’re always asking how we can make this club for everyone," Restrepo said.
Restrepo emphasized that, while she doesn't think oSTEM is unique in its mission to create a safe space for its members, she does believe the LGBT community is "one of the last affinity groups to be acknowledged or welcomed in a certain space — STEM fields being one of them."
Also a national organization, the UNM charter is to provide a safe place and a middle ground between LGBT and STEM. Allies are welcome too.
oSTEM meetings are held every other Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Student Union Building. Interested students can access the club’s Instagram (@unmostem) and can anticipate a website coming soon.
"Overall, it's important for me that our members can start to feel that every aspect of their identities deserve to be here. If our presence on campus can make a few people feel like they don't have to water themselves down to achieve their goals, it will have all been worth it," Restrepo said. "Practicing confidence and acceptance now will undoubtedly make better professionals in the future."
On North Campus, Christopher Papaleo, president of the Lambda Law Student Association and a Juris Doctor candidate at the UNM School of Law, said the mission of his club is to identify and approach any legal, cultural and social issues that may affect the LGBT community on campus.
"The (Lambda Law Student Association) provides visibility and shares the existence of LGBT individuals. It gives LGBT law students a place to find camaraderie, advice, support and networking," Papaleo said.
The program offers a variety of services, including on-campus events intended to educate the community on safe-\ sex education, opportunities to build connections within the LGBT Law School community and the overall legal profession, both legal and non-legal LGBT-related issues and off-campus lunch meetings with members of the legal profession who identify as LGBT.
"Anybody who wants to show up and share experiences and share ideas is welcome. I have never had a situation in meetings that was anything but supportive and welcoming," Papaleo said.
Formal meetings always take place at the Law School, though dates and times vary. Interested students can refer to the Lambda Law Student Association’s website, in which a video from a recent club-hosted Trans 101 training and accompanying electronic handouts will be posted as well.
"We are not an issue-based organization, because there isn’t just one issue that affects the LGBTQ community," Papaleo said. "We are driven by the needs of our community, and that can present itself in many different ways."
The LGBT Students and Allies in Healthcare (LSAH) began in 2013.
According to Nathan Harris, an MD candidate and one of the organizers of the program, LSAH is an interest group that unites all colleges and practices under the focus of LGBT issues on campus and in the Albuquerque community at large.
"LSAH connects like-minded students with people in relevant professional positions," Harris said. "The club has given me a direction for medical school, and it is overall a space for LGBT students to congregate in one area and remind other people that they exist because as a minority group they can otherwise become isolated."
The club frequently invites outside organizations to present about transgender issues, preventative HIV safety measures and overall how to provide direction for medical students. Additionally, LSAH helps run the Prism Clinic, a free urgent care that primarily serves those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, once a week.
"Ultimately, we want to include more education on correct usage of pronouns and broader sexual help in clinical settings. Being able to work together in an organized space is so important," Harris said.
LSAH meetings occur on the second Thursday of every month from noon to 1 p.m., and the next meeting falls on Dec. 12. The location of the meetings varies. Interested students can refer to the club’s Facebook page: UNM LGBT Students and Allies in Healthcare.
The Queer Student Alliance is another UNM club; though they were unable to respond to the Daily Lobo’s request for an interview, interested students can email email@example.com for more information.
Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli