Julián Cancino, a transgender LGBTQ activist, joined Brandeis in July 2020 as inaugural director fo the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), according to an email obtained by The Brandeis Hoot from Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mark Brimhall-Vargas. Though the center opened in 2015, according to an article by The Hoot, it has not had a director until now.
“As a transgender person of color and accomplished manager, educator, and social justice leader, I’m passionate about building institutions, serving communities, and broadening perspectives. I’m delighted to join the Brandeis family,” Caninco told The Hoot in an email.
Cancino has been an advocate for marginalized communities his entire life. He started in the legal field after completing his undergraduate career, he wrote to The Hoot. During his undergraduate studies at the University of California Berkeley, Cancino helped to establish the Undocumented Student Program, which is “a personalized and solution-focused approach to student services,” according to Brimhall-Vargas’ email.
His main focus has always been on LGBTQ rights, whether at law firms or educational institutions, starting his career at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Fransisco and later at Munger, Tolles & Olson (MTO) in Los Angeles.
Cancino is rather tight-lipped about the details of his new plans for the GSC, telling The Hoot he would work closely with students, faculty and staff to build the new center in the coming months and that he would announce more details soon. He also wanted to thank all the student workers in the GSC that are helping to further its mission.
“I aim to provide visionary leadership toward creating a comprehensive, vibrant GSC that partners [with other organizations] across the campus and community to support, advocate for, and educate on matters related to gender and LGBTQ+ identities,” Cancino told The Hoot. “I also have a special responsibility of creating a welcoming environment that facilitates LGBTQ+ students’ advancement, growth, and development through advocacy, policy development, and appropriate institutional intervention when necessary.”
Since coming to Boston, Cancino has worked at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and served as a policy advocate in support of the 2016 Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination. Though the law was challenged in 2018, it was upheld, and Massachusetts became the “first state-wide anti-discrimination law passed by referendum in support of transgender rights,” according to Brimhall-Vargas’ email.
After working in law, Cancino started working in education as the director of the Latino Center at Tufts University, where he “fostered innovation in administration, passionate commitment to learning opportunities, and enhancing collaboration across schools,” according to Brimhall-Vargas. Cancino also held a position at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston prior to coming to Brandeis, where he led innovative initiatives.
Cancino wrote that he will report directly to Brimhall-Vargas and is the primary contact staff member for “the institution’s efforts to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus for students, employees, and alumni who identify as LGBTQ+.” At the event, “You’ll meet our inaugural director, Julián Cancino, and out and proud faculty, staff, and students,” according to a flyer about the event. The GSC’s virtual kickoff event will be on the evening of August 28.