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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Getting rid of the LGBTQ Resource Center will hurt students

Jose Gonzales-Campelo/The Cougar

The most recent Texas Legislative session ended with a variety of notable decisions, but SB17 in particular left quite a few students emotionally devastated. With the bill officially passed, Texas’ LGBTQ students and the allies who supported them have been left without much-needed support.

The bill, which banned state funding for programs that prioritized diverse student populations, resulted in the closure of both the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the LGBTQ Resource Center.

While the closing of the CDI offices has impacted students as well, the removal of the resource center has left students particularly distraught, sparking protests and scrambles to try to find an alternative.

“The resource center for me and others wasn’t just a building that provides resources,” said pre-ASLI senior Kaitie Tolman. “It was a central hub for the community. People thought of it as their chosen family.”

Tolman, who serves as president of the student LGBTQ organization GLOBAL, said that many students felt as if they had lost one of the only support options they had in a state that’s hostile to LGBTQ youth.

The resource center served as a source of life for many, and in at least one case, it served as a place to grieve a loss.

After the sudden passing of LGBTQ student leader Corey Sanders, Tollman recalled how staff jumped in to help arrange his memorial service.

“The resource center was a second home to Corey, so we asked them if we could host his memorial there,” said Tollman. “Within 30 minutes, staff responded, ‘We’ll do you one better, why don’t we help coordinate it?”

Tollman noted that the process of reserving a space could have taken two weeks minimum for a student organization, but the presence of dedicated staff meant that it was covered in less than a day.

While various organizations, including UH Canterbury and Rice’s Queer Resource Center, have offered their support, nothing can fully replace what was lost.

With the passage of this bill, a multi-year legacy of supporting and mentoring students has ended. Multiple students, like 2017 graduate Marrisa Ramos, had their entire student experience deeply impacted by the center.

“I left Abilene Christian University when I came out as queer,” said Ramos. “I didn’t have any friends or support system, but the resource center was there. Without them, I would not have found the power to be who I am.”

Ramos said she gained invaluable experience during her time at UH, and her advocacy training significantly shaped her professional life. She now serves as a commissioner for the Deaf community in Louisiana.

The resource center’s positive impact went beyond just LGBTQ students, however. 2021 graduate Allison Lawrence served as SGA president, a role she said was heavily influenced by her time working with the center.

“I was a SAGA ambassador at the resource center my first year of college,” said Lawrence. “My identity and the community I found in the resource center helped me learn more about myself and discover my path in life.”

While much of her work was with the LGBTQ community, she used her experience to advocate for other marginalized groups. Eventually, Lawrence ended up lobbying at the U.S. Capitol in support of the Dream Act.

The stories of those who have been personally touched by the resource center could fill a thousand books.

If you were to walk into the center and ask any staff member to tell you about those impactful students, they would have been sure to offer a chair, some cookies and a warm smile as they began to tell stories for hours.

LGBTQ communities have frequently been denied spaces to be themselves, and this most recent loss should be seen as nothing less than a cowardly attack made from a place of fear.

As much as state leaders love to talk about rights, no right is supposed to be more sacred than “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Yet in Texas, it seems that the simple freedom to be yourself is a step too far.

Getting rid of the resource center will do more than just take away “a hangout spot”. It robs students of a home when they need it most. It erases a rare place of history and community for a group so frequently denied that.

And in a University that loves to emphasize student leadership and diversity, this decision will crush student leaders whose impact could have echoed far beyond just the LGBTQ community.

As the year goes on, UH will continue to host events talking about “Cougar Pride”. The center’s replacement will be established and the administration will do their best to forget. 

But at the end of the day, “Cougar Pride” is no longer about being yourself, no matter what the fancy signs might say.

Malachi Spence Key is a journalism senior who can be reached at
[email protected]

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