HESS: LGBTQ+ outreach on Grounds needs to improve

While many LGBTQ+ resources and student groups exist on Grounds, more could be done to advertise their existence

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Pride month serves as a time to celebrate love and the LGBTQ+ community, but it also serves as an important time to highlight the problems impacting LGBTQ+ people. 

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Every year, Pride month serves as a time to celebrate love and the LGBTQ+ community, but it also serves as an important time to highlight the problems impacting LGBTQ+ people everywhere, which we should strive to address all year round. This past semester, I came out to the world. I received an overwhEvery year, Pride month serves as a time to celebrate love and the LGBTQ+ community, but it also serves as an important time to highlight the problems impacting LGBTQ+ people everywhere, which we should strive to address all year round. This past semester, I came out to the world. I received an overwhelming amount of love and support from all those around me and I was excited to find my place within the U.Va. LGBTQ+ community, but I really did not know where to start — and I still do not. It is easy to find queer students that are present and proud. And while some recent progress has been promising, organization across the University has been hard to find.

Most University resources can be found at or through the LGBTQ center in Newcomb Hall. While the central location of the center is great, the room in the basement was not a very inviting for a place that is supposed to be a safe place for people who may be struggling with their identity. Thankfully, the University has moved the location of the center to the third floor of Newcomb putting it in an area that many students interact with on a daily basis — creating easy access. However, moving it is only half the battle, the University must ensure that all LGBTQ+ students are able to take advantage of the newly relocated center. 

The center itself has also, until recently, been lacking a crucial resource in its organization — a program coordinator. The center has several volunteers and interns, but the University had allowed the vacancy to persist until last month. This position is crucial in the effectiveness of the center’s mission and should be filled as quickly as possible. A program coordinator alone can fill many of the communication issues that exist just due to the fact that they would have a full-time commitment to the LGBTQ center, which has not existed at the University.

The LGBTQ center is a great place for queer students to gather, but during my time at the University its location and absence of a program coordinator was preventing it from creating an even bigger positive impact. By making these changes, I hope the University continues to strive toward constantly improving the center and its functions, and these changes are a great start. 

Outside of the LGBTQ center, there are several prominent CIOs that strive to create safe gathering places for LGBTQ+ students, such as the Queer Student Union and Sigma Omicron Rho. While these LGBTQ+ groups put on a wide variety of events on Grounds throughout the year, they are unable to create a representative voice that unifies the community. Groups such as the Latinx Student Alliance and the Black Student Alliance do a very good job of voicing the concerns of their respective communities on Grounds, which then fosters an inviting atmosphere within their groups that seems to be missing in the U.Va. LGBTQ+ community. 

This disconnect is not necessarily due to a lack of effort by student groups or the University, but because of the diverse nature of the LGBTQ+ community. The queer community is a large umbrella for many different identities with people from every background. A trans man, a bi woman and a questioning man are all likely having very different experiences, and it is important for all groups and university officials to remember this when trying to create an inclusive safe space for all LGBTQ+ students. There is no typical LGBTQ+ experience, so resources and programming must be flexible and adjustable for every student.  

I came out mid-semester, so perhaps if I would have been out at the beginning of the semester, I would have had an easier time discovering resources and opportunities than I did. The process of coming out is a major part of a queer identity though, so it is important that the U.Va. LGBTQ+ community is available for students at any and all times. U.Va. is not necessarily behind the times compared to other universities, but it could definitely look to other institutions for inspiration. 

For example, the Tufts University LGBT center website look vastly different compared to the U.Va center’s site. It has the option to join a listserv to stay up to date on events as well as appliactions for queer housing. Even small changes like making the website more accessible and filling the crucial program coordinator position is a step in the right direction. LGBTQ+ resources need to be easily accessible and welcoming, and all programming must strive to be as diverse as the community is itself with proper support and funding from the University.

Hunter Hess is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

Correction: Originally, this article neglected to mention the LGBTQ Center was moving. Additionally, the column argued for the addition of a program coordinator — however, a coordinator was hired for the center at the end of last month. The article has since been updated.

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