By Brett Stachler
There have been many changes in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center this summer. We have a new space, a new name and a new director on the way
During our 10-year anniversary celebration this past spring, we had an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate our journey at Northwestern. We were also able to plan for the opening of an all-gender restroom at Norris, expand our space and initiate a name change to celebrate all gender identities, expressions and sexual orientations.
At the university level, the first center focusing on gender identity/expression and sexual orientation was the University of Michigan’s then-named Human Sexualities Office in 1971. Since then, a number of gender and sexuality offices have emerged. Our history at NU mainly began in 2000, when the LGBT Support Network offered the Safe Space Ally Workshop. Later on, this group helped advocate for a LGBT resource center.
As a result of these efforts and with the support of Student Affairs, the LGBT Resource Center opened its doors on May 19, 2004, with two co-coordinators who worked six hours a week. In 2006, a part-time coordinator position opened at the resource later, which later became a full-time director position in 2012.
Our history has moved forward beside the history of the overall Queer and Trans* Movement. One of the larger shifts within the community has been the fluidity of how people identify their genders and sexual orientation. In an effort to create an inclusive environment, we recently changed our name to the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) to reflect this shift in how people identify.
The changes in our space at Norris also reflect our overall growth. We have doubled our size with an office reception space and student lounge that has a couch, meeting space and larger library.
At GSRC, we strive to encourage student learning, community engagement and cultural inclusion in everything we do. This year, our staff, in partnership with Norris staff, brainstormed a big way to reach out and advance our social justice goals at Student Affairs. Our solution was the all-gender restroom. This was our best idea at creating a private space that overcomes the binary definitions of gender identity. We now have a single-stall, all-gender restroom on the second floor of Norris and are working with Norris Facilities Management to bring another all-gender restroom to the third floor in winter 2015.
Despite all of our changes, we still have a long way to go. Devin Moss, the former Resource Center Director, noted, “This progress has allowed for us to break out of the mold of yester-year to create a space that speaks to our most humanly core of affirmation and love. The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, as I envision it, seeks to be the space where social justice education inspires innovation for inter- and intra-cultural progress toward community development.”
As the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) begins to finalize its search for a new director, we continue to look forward by asking ourselves three questions: How are we helping students enrich their experiences by including all voices and narratives? How can we continue to use social justice and intercultural education to educate the Northwestern community on the lives of Queer and Trans* people to develop better allies? How do we engage multiple communities of students, faculty and alumni to affirm, celebrate and develop all gender identities, expressions and sexual orientations?
In this last moment, we wish to thank all students, staff, faculty and alumni members for their contributions in creating a better Northwestern for all our Queer and Trans* members. Indeed, as Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Brett Stachler is a graduate assistant at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Northwestern University.