Pride Resource Center celebrates 20 years

Emma Iannacone

Since it’s creation, the CSU Pride Resource Center has served LGBTQ students and encouraged people to be proud of their identity. Now, 20 years later, the center is reflecting on its growth and looking ahead to future challenges.

The Pride Resource Center is celebrating 20 years of pride this October in tune with National LGBTQ History month and the 30th annual National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

Ad

The first director of the resource center, Lisa Phelps, will be speaking at the 20th-anniversary dinner on Oct. 20 alongside Jasmine Ontiveros, a senior social work major, and Xander Rorabaugh, a master’s political science major.

variety of events are scheduled for October to celebrate LGTBQ History Month, which overlaps with Latinx Heritage Month for two weeks.

“We’re going to do a panel of Latinx-Queer-identified folks to talk about what it means to hold those intersections,” said Dora Frias, the director of the Pride Resource Center.

The first LGTBQ mariachi band, Mariachi Arcoriris, will also be performing at the dinner on the 20th.

“They were just recently featured on Billboard magazine, so it’s really awesome that we are able to bring them in and highlight their artistry,” Frias said. 

While the center has been around for 20 years, there’s been gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students at CSU as long as CSU has been around.” Dora Frias, the Director of the Pride Resource Center.  

The 20th anniversary serves as an opportunity for both celebration and reflection for the community’s members.

In an interview with The Collegian, Phelps recalled the formation of the office and how she and the students hoped to create something that would live on.

“I feel like we created the foundation, so looking back 20 years later, I feel like we had a small part in that,” Phelps said.

Since Phelps helped create the center in 1998, it’s grown from a student-run organization to a fully functioning resource office with two full-time professional staff members.

“We started off as a center that was literally like a closet in the basement of the student center with a half-time director,” Frias said.

Ad

Now, the office is located on the main floor of the Lory Student Center and is consistently full of people utilizing the space.

“I think every evolution we’ve had of location and name change has always been about growth,” Frias said.

Originally called the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Student Services Office, the center exists to serve LGTBQ students “by the cultivation of safe space, educational outreach, advocacy, visibility of LGBTQ issues” and more, according to the Pride Resource Center website. Some of the resources the center offers today are safe zone training, ally training, help with legal name changing, support coming out and more. 

Pride Resource Center
The Pride Resource Center is located in room 232 and provides resources and support for all CSU community members to explore and increase their understanding of sexual/romantic orientation, gender, and identity intersection. This year is the 20th anniversary of the center. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Cooper, a fifth-year senior economics major whose last name is being withheld to maintain his anonymity, wants to encourage LGTBQ students who are hesitant about coming to the center to check it out.

“We provide a safe place for them to come and be their authentic selves and resources to help them with family, friends, professors, and basically all aspects of their lives,” Cooper said.

Frias said that while the LGTBQ community has made positive strides, like the legalization of marriage equality in 2014, people still face the same bias they always have. However, there has only been an official resource for queer students struggling with bias-motivated incidents since 1998.

“While the center has been around for 20 years, there’s been gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students at CSU as long as CSU has been around,” Frias said. 

Before the center was created, a group called the Student Organization for Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals supported queer students. Frias said there was still a need for a resource center with professionals to advocate for and support LGTBQ students, which became apparent to Phelps after the 1997 flood washed away the SOGLB office.

Phelps knew that student members would need someone to talk to about the aftermath of the flood, so she forwarded the SOGLB’s calls to her phone in her office at Residence Life.

“I like to say that the first home of the office was the phone on my desk at Residence Life,” Phelps said.

During the time she was in charge of the SOGLB phone, she received calls about putting the office back together, but she also realized something more pressing.

I don’t think the students truly understood how historic that night was because we had been advocating for this for years.” Lisa Phelps, the first Director of the resource center.

“I started keeping track of those calls, and I realized there’s some stuff that people are calling about that students should not have to deal with,” Phelps said. 

She decided that professional help was needed for this student-run organization. At the time, the Associated Students of CSU had also been working with the SOGLB office to form an official resource office for queer students.

In the spring of 1998, the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs spoke with student organizations and other campus professionals like Phelps about forming a resource center. And so, through the determination of students, the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Student Services Office was created.

Phelps remembers the support from the administration and the excitement of the students because, at the time, there weren’t many LGTBQ service offices for students on other campuses.

“I don’t think the students truly understood how historic that night was because we had been advocating for this for years,” Phelps said. “Having students from ASCSU and the SOGLB leaders work together on that was phenomenal.”

That historic night lives on for Phelps, but nothing compares to the first time she saw the office in the basement of the LSC, with the words “Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Student Services Office” hung high on the wall. 

“It was very significant to have all those words on the wall,” Phelps said. “That was very powerful.”

Since moving back east to be with family, Phelps has visited campus and the resource office several times. She enjoys talking with students about how important the office is to them. 

“Hearing them talk about how passionate they are about the office and how supportive it is, and then I walk out and say ‘yeah, that’s what it was about,” Phelps said.

Cooper has been coming to the Pride Resource Center since his freshman year. He said the center has given him a sense of belonging at CSU.

“It’s honestly given me a reason to stay on campus even when it was hard academically,” Cooper said.

She hopes the celebrations reflect the beauty and pride the LGTBQ community has.

“Our students are incredibly resilient and despite the things they may face out there in this world, they’re very proud of who they are,” Frias said.

Emma Iannacone can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EmmaIannacone.