BEYOND A LABEL
By Jose Aguilar
As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to struggle for equality and to
eliminate political and social discrimination on a national level, they do so within the UH
community as well.
Nationally, the LGBT community experienced advancements such as the repeal of
the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in late December, and a federal judge ruling
California's Prop 8 unconstitutional in early August. On the UH campus, the community's
most prominent advancement came with UH administration establishing the University's
LGBT Resource Center, which held its grand opening in June.
Lorraine Schroeder, the center's director, described the community's response as
"It's like everyone was just waiting for it to happen," Schroeder said. "And, now that it
has, the local community is reaching out to the center and wanting to be involved in any
way they can."
The new center shares space with UH's Women's Resource Center, which had served
as a de facto center for the LGBT community prior to the LGBTRC.
"We had art on our wall that welcomed the community, we had an informational table
and rainbow bracelets to hand out on National Coming Out Day," WRC Director Beverly
McPhail said. "And, we advocated for students whenever we could."
The LGBTRC has impacted the campus in positive ways, Schroeder said.
The center has been able to assist professors who have had LGBT issues arise in
classrooms, and staff, faculty, and students are able to learn about LGBT issues and how
to be supportive through the Cougar Ally Training and Speakers Bureau programs at the
"But, most importantly," Schroeder said, "the existence of the center gives people, especially LGBT people, a place to go to network, get connected, and get information."
Issues still face the community, though, Schroeder said, including establishing an
LGBT alumni network and LGBT-themed housing; adding gender identity and expression
onto UH's nondiscrimination policy; and providing more LGBT social events for students.
Cody McGaughey, public relations officer for UH's LGBT student group GLOBAL, said
living arrangements on campus present a struggle for those who are LGBT.
"When I first arrived at UH, I heard of a student who requested a LGBT-friendly roommate," McGaughey said. "His request was not acknowledged and the roommate he received turned out to be very homophobic."
A string of suicides by gay youth as a result of bullying was highly-publicized in the national media in October. McGaughey said GLOBAL responded to these suicides by requiring all officers to take Cougar Ally Training, as well as learn how to help those members
exhibiting possible depression and suicidal behavior.
UH administration also provided the community with help in the form of a recorded
and transcribed question and answer session with UH professor of educational psychology Thomas Schanding specifically addressing LGBT bullying.
Another issue was addressed in February when the community staged a march for
domestic partner benefits for same-sex partners of faculty and staff, which began at the
Ezekiel Cullen building and ended in UH's Human Resources office.
Schroeder knows that the struggle will continue, but she feels optimistic that the UH
community 20 years from now will look back with pride on the initial steps.
McGaughey said the best development for LGBT awareness would be for the public to
realize that the stories of gay and lesbian people have more than one chapter.
"What others must realize is that being GLBT isn't truly all there is encompassing us
as individuals," he said. "We are brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, writers, artists, politicians. We are so much more."