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Gender and Sexuality Center engages community

Located on the first floor of the Usdan Student Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) is a space on campus for all members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. Ryan Mishler, the Program Administrator of the GSC, sat down with The Hoot to discuss the various events being held at the GSC this semester.

“I’m the advisor for the LGBT student organizations on campus. I’m also in charge of administering programs and events throughout the year relating to gender identity and sexual orientation,” explained Mishler. “I’m also working with campus partners to make sure that the services on campus include LGBT people in their services whatever they may be, whether it’s the health center or the Department of Community Living (DCL), or what have you.”

Mishler said the center is a place of learning for the entire campus community about all issues surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation. Also, that the center is a place of community building for LGBT students, staff, faculty and allies. It was created in 2014 “and it was in a large part due to student activism. Students wanted a place, an office space with a staff member dedicated to LGBT concerns,” said Mishler. “Because of their hard work and their dedication, that’s why we’re here.”

The center is affiliated with the Intercultural Center (ICC) and is also a part of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI). “When I began here in this position in July, my goal was to really work with other offices to create programming that shows the level of diversity and the varied experiences of LGBT people,” said Mishler. Student employees assist Mishler in the creation of events. “This center would not be half of what it is without our amazing student employees. They bring passion and love of the community to everything that they do.”

The GSC’s programming this semester includes a range of events. On Thursday, Oct. 25, the GSC, along with the ICC, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department and the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC) held “Breaking the Silence: Confronting Domestic Violence in LGBTQIA Communities.” The panel was moderated by Deirdre Hunter (WGS). The panel included Damian Lima, a Health Promotion Center Coordinator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Erin Miller, a Manager at Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Domestic Violence program and Lauren Montanaro, a Community Engagement Specialist at REACH.

“Domestic violence in and of itself can be a topic that is seen as taboo, or we don’t talk about that in our wider culture, but I think that’s especially true for marginalized people like LGBT people,” said Mishler. They mentioned stories of cisgender gay men being denied support at domestic violence shelters, despite being survivors themselves. “I think we’re very lucky to live in the Boston area because there are so many resources and avenues of support for LGBT domestic violence survivors, and the goal of the panel is to highlight those resources and to shed light on the issue.”

Nov. 12 to Nov. 16 is Trans Awareness Week. The goal of the week is to “uplift and affirm the identities of trans and gender non-conforming folks.” Nov. 19 is Trans Day of Remembrance. The day began in 1998 as a way to memorialize trans people who had been murdered within the previous year. “It’s so important to memorialize those folks and understand the systemic violence that trans folks face on a daily basis, especially since for the most part the trans folks facing that violence are trans folks of color. They not only have to deal with transphobia but racism and they’re impacted by both,” said Mishler. They also wished to point out that the day is not only to memorialize those who have been killed but also to look to the future and provide “concrete ways for cisgender allies to support transgender people in their daily lives.”

On Dec. 1, the GSC will host a film screening and panel discussion for World AIDS Day. The center will show the documentary, “We Were Here,” which discusses the AIDS crisis within the queer community in San Francisco in the 80s and 90s. “I didn’t live through the epidemic, a lot of students here don’t have firsthand experience with the epidemic, and we need to understand the history of degradation and marginalization that queer and trans folks faced within that time frame,” Mishler said. The panel will discuss the epidemic and how the issue has changed since then.

Some of Mishler’s favorite memories have been when students come up to them and thank them for providing an outlet to create a community on campus. “That’s what makes this job really special for me, is connecting with students.”

The center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and has partnered with the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) to bring community therapist Landen Motyka to the center from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The center will also continue to have Yes on 3 Campaign phone banks up to Nov. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and hosts a multitude of student clubs such as the Sex and Sexuality Symposium, Queer People of Color Coalition, TransDeis, Shalem and Triskelion.

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