MACOMB, IL — In 2011, the LGBT*QA Resource Center was established at Western Illinois University to serve as a home, and to raise awareness for, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning+ community at WIU. Ten years later, the resource center provides that home-away-from-home, numerous programming and events and resources for the WIU and surrounding communities.
According to Sarah Daniels, a graduate assistant at the LGBT*QA Resource Center, before the center had its first physical home in Seal Hall (now in the Multicultural Center), there was just one week of programming in April to raise awareness for the LGTQ+ population. This year, as the center celebrates its 10th anniversary, there is a slate of activities scheduled throughout the month of April to celebrate Pride Month at WIU.
"I am excited to kick-off the first WIU Pride Month, beginning April 1, on the 10-year anniversary of the resource center," Daniels added. "It is not without the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community at WIU and Macomb that we have so much to celebrate."
In 1987, Ralph Wagoner, Western Illinois University's eighth president, took a request from WIU's Open Door, a support group for gays and lesbians on campus, to the then-governing body of five Illinois public universities to include in its policies the prohibition of discrimination of students and employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Thirty-four years later, Western's University Committee on Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression (UCOSOGIE) continues to raise awareness and provide support services on the WIU campuses, but it wasn't easy during those early years.
According to UCOSOGIE, during freshman orientation in Fall 1990, shortly after the discrimination policies were updated, films were shown focusing on diversity on college campuses, and the reaction to the segment that addressed the difficulties faced by gay and lesbian students shocked the faculty. President Wagoner stepped up once again and appointed the first members to the President's Task Force to End Homophobia. The task force met on a regular basis to work on such goals as communicating the commitment of WIU to be an inclusive community that would not condone discrimination against anyone on campus and to develop educational programs.
In Spring 1991, the Task Force co-sponsored Gay and Lesbian Awareness Week, and during the fall semester, a survey designed to measure the level of homophobia on campus was sent to 500 members of the faculty, administration and staff. The survey indicated a high level of homophobia, so the Task Force directed its energies to educational seminars and workshops for University employees.
The Task Force changed its name to the University Committee on Sexual Orientation in 1999 to more accurately reflect the mission of the committee, which is to provide support, advocacy and education to the WIU community regarding issues impacting the lives of the GLBT population. Members of UCOSO were also instrumental in the creation of the LGBTQA Resource Center.
Since its creation in 2011, the LGBT*QA Resource Center has spearheaded a number of inclusive initiatives at WIU, including:
Unity - While the origins of Unity, the 2SLGBT*QIA+ student organization on campus, began long before the founding of the center, the graduate assistants in the LGBT*QA Resource Center have served as graduate advisers to Unity since 2011. For anyone interested in learning more about Unity or joining, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Afrocentric Queers - Afrocentric Queers is a new student organization that was formed out of the identified need for a space for queer and trans* people of color to celebrate both of their identities. It began as an initiative in Fall 2020 and is advised by both the LGBT*QA Resource Center and the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center. Anyone interested in joining the organization can fill out the interest form here.
The Lambda Lavender Honor Society - The Lambda Lavender Honor Society (LLHS) was developed from a lack of national recognition of 2SLGBTQIA+ academic excellence and leadership. LLHS' mission is to celebrate and develop leadership for 2SLGBTQIA+ social justice, to recognize scholarly excellence for 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and their allies, and to provide a forum for the engagement of service and community building to the benefit of all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff, faculty, alumni, and the University community. Anyone interested in joining LLHS can apply for membership (live link) or visit the LLHS page on PurplePost for more information.
The Closet - The Closet (or Qloset) was developed in Spring 2019, and implemented in the Fall 2019. It was an initiative started by Unity and the LGBT*QA Resource Center graduate assistant at the time. The Closet is a completely donation-based project where students can take clothing, which is available at no cost, to help them match their gender expressions and identity. The Qloset serves as a no-judgement resource for anyone who needs it and centers sustainability through an inclusive lens. Anyone interested in making a donation to the Closet, contact the LGBT*QA Resource Center at email@example.com .
gc2b Partnership - In December 2019, the LGBT*QA Resource Center began a partnership initiative with gc2b, one of the largest and most recognized transitional apparel companies in the U.S., to provide masculinizing chest binders for the WIU and Macomb communities (including the QC Campus), at no cost to the individuals in need. For more information about gc2b and the products they provide, go to www.gc2b.co. For individuals interested in receiving a chest binder, please fill out the interest form to set up a confidential appointment for sizing and care instructions.