Story and photos by CARSON HUISKAMP
The dogs wagged their tails, they barked and they ran around the Union patio at the University of Utah, strutting their stuff in order to win the Pride Pet Pageant and garner a few toys such as doggy bones and chew toys. As folks gathered around to watch the owners and their dogs give a show, in the background stood a small kiosk that was the sole reason for the event.
This kiosk stood all by itself, much like a lone wolf in the middle of the patio. Many asked why it was there as they walked by.
That dialogue enabled staff with the university’s LGBT Resource Center to share information about Pride Week.
“We wanted to do a Pride Week and come up with a theme that spoke to the fact that there are issues in this population that are more than just marriage equality,” said Kai Medina-Martínez, the center’s director.
An important aspect of Pride Week is fundraising, which helps keep the center running. Financial support through donations helps build programs that promote its message to the LGBT community at the U.
This center might not be the most well known around campus, but its goal is as big as any.
When the LGBT Resource Center first opened its doors in 2002, it didn’t have the resources to help much of the community.
“It was a small closet. In that closet all they could put in it were a desk and a small red couch,” Medina-Martínez said.
Now the facility has grown to more than 1,000 square feet and is located on the fourth floor of the Union Building. The Resource Center offers students access to safe workstations and printing hubs. All this was made possible through the David Bohnett Foundation, which donated $15,000 to create the LGBT CyberCenter. Because of this donation, the Resource Center was able to include four Internet-ready IBM computers, as well as a laser jet printer for students to use on a daily basis Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
One of the biggest contributions the Resource Center provides is the variety of programs and events it runs or is involved in that help ensure the safety of LGBT students around campus.
One unique program the LGBT Resource Center provides is called Queers Peers, which allows students to anonymously ask questions about being LGBT or other issues through the use of email.
“What is most beneficial about the program is that anyone can submit any question without the fear of having to ask someone in person or being judged,” said Mariana Ramiro, head of the Queers Peers email service.
However, Ramiro said the program isn’t very well known around campus and has not gotten much of a boost in acceptance or usage over the years.
“We only get about one email a month. Most of the emails tend to just be spam,” she said.
However, where the email service is most helpful to U students is with the distribution of LGBT information and social events.
“We do get emails asking about resources for coming out, as well as where and how to find out about possible social events,” Ramiro said. “It has existed for a couple of years now, and I just wish most people knew about Queers Peers so it could be used more.”
And that is why the LGBT Resource Center was found all throughout campus during Pride Week in hopes to spread the word about resources like Queers Peers, and the center itself.