Houston City Council member Sue Lovell led a list of speakers who helped celebrate the grand opening of UH’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center last week.
The turnout of over 60 people required Lovell to speak on the UC balcony outside of the center.
Lovell, who has been at the forefront of gay rights in Houston since the 1970s, praised the University for opening such a center and also praised the students for choosing to come out at such an early age.
“I have three sons… and I am so amazed,” Lovell said. “They have such a mixture of friends. Their friends are out, they accept them, and it’s incredible. I have to say to all of you (students)… thank you.”
“You and your age group have made it much easier for my youngest son’s generation to be totally out. It had to do with you and your wanting to come out and be out. Because of that, they will know freedoms that I certainly didn’t know and that you have experienced,” said Lovell.
The opening comes four months after the center officially opened its doors and years after the idea of a GLBT center first took root on campus.
“There have been many other staff members who have, for many years, tried to get the resource center established and finally they were successful,” newly appointed director of the center Lorraine Schroeder said. “We’re just trying to get the program put together and ready to launch in the fall.”
The grand opening occurred at the tail end of Pride month and took place days after the city’s nighttime parade, but that was purely coincidental.
“Actually, I wasn’t hired until May and I needed time to plan,” Schroeder said. “It just so happened that it was the same week as Pride week.”
One of the persons long involved in the process of getting a center on campus was associate professor of English Maria Gonzalez, who has been advocating GLBT issues since the 1990s and focusing on a campus center for the past decade.
“It’s an amazing feeling after all these years to get this set up. It’s almost like we have arrived,” Gonzalez said. “My hope is that someday we will close it down because there will be no discrimination on this campus and we won’t need it anymore because we will have succeeded in dismantling any kind of discrimination, any kind of heterosexism and any kind of homophobia.”
Gonzalez stressed that the resource center is not only for students but also for faculty and staff, and she praised the role administration played in making this idea become a reality.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the administration,” she said. “Kudos goes to the Provost John Antel, and also to our General Counsel Dona Cornell. These two people were pivotal in making this happen.”
Beverly McPhail, director of the Women’s Resource Center, served as de facto director of the GLBT Resource Center while the search for a permanent director took place.
“I’m really impressed (with the administration), especially in a time of budget cuts, they could have easily said no (to the new position),” she said. “We have to really thank the Provost for making this happen.”
McPhail talked about the number of students who have seen the center during the various summer orientations that are currently taking place.
“Students will come in and say, ‘It’s so great to have a GLBT center, I feel welcomed, I know I’m accepted, I don’t have to hide who I am,’ and I think that’s so important,” McPhail said. “I think it makes a statement, not only to GLBT students, faculty and staff but also to straight faculty. We boast about our diversity and this is another part of our diversity that we are really proud of.”
Graduate College of Social Work Sen. Josephine Tittsworth is excited that GLBT Cougars now have a place to call their own.
“I’m excited, I’m glad it’s finally here,” Tittsworth said. “We finally have a place to have a voice, to be heard and a place to go to when we need to talk. That’s so very important for people to have that sense of belonging.”
The center is currently accepting donations of books and DVDs that will build their lending library.