When international students travel to the United States to learn English, the language barrier is just one of their challenges. Cultural differences like being overwhelmed in the grocery store, being embarrassed about not tipping a server (there is no tipping…
Q&A: LGBT Resource Center Director Tiffany Gray
After working for a year as the interim director of the University’s LGBT Resource Center, Tiffany Gray was recently named as the center’s permanent director. This cause for celebration coincides with the center’s 15th anniversary, which is being celebrated Monday, Sept. 26, from 5-7 p.m. in the Comstock Room at the University Sheraton. The event is free and open to all. Gray shared her thoughts on her new permanent position and the state of the LGBT rights movement.
Q. You have recently been made permanent in the position of director of the LGBT Resource Center. Does that make a difference in how you are able to approach projects, and if so, how?
A. Yes, I’m extremely excited to be the permanent director of the LGBT Resource Center. Many people know that I worked at the LGBT Resource Center a few years ago as the associate director, so I have a lot of love and care for the RC. Now, being the director, I have the ability to vision and imagine the possibilities of our work. Despite my staff being small, I have an amazing team that contributes a great deal to the success of the RC.
Q. The LGBT Resource Center is now pretty well-established on campus. What are your plans to expand or refine its programs?
A. We are actually celebrating 15 years of the LGBT Resource Center’s founding, so it’s an exciting time to be the newest director. We will have an opportunity to highlight the past accomplishments of the center, share memories, celebrate with each other and look toward the future. I just recently hired a new associate director who starts in October. I’m excited to have a full staff so that we can do some visioning and planning for the future. I would agree that we are well established; however, there are still many students, faculty and staff who have no idea that our center exists, have never visited our space or even know about the work that we do. Having a dedicated LGBT Resource Center on a college campus shouldn’t be taken lightly because there are many places that don’t have a space. As I look toward the future, there are several areas that I would like to focus on during my time as the director, but I’ll only highlight a few. I’d like to enhance our visibility on campus, alumni connections, outreach and advocacy, policies, educational opportunities and collaborative efforts. In addition, as a center, we will continue to explore the complex intersections of our multiple social identities, enhance our allyship efforts and ultimately strive to create safer people and safer spaces on campus and beyond.
Q. Are there constituencies that you feel you have not yet reached?
A. Well we have pretty major responsibility on campus. Our primary role is to serve and support LGBTQA people (i.e., all people with marginalized genders and sexualities). However, we know that gender and sexuality is a part of who people are and not all of who they are. So our work becomes more complicated as we strive to acknowledge and affirm the whole person. We also know that our center works across identities with allies and the entire campus community more broadly. So for us, we operate from the framework that we serve the entire SU community. For our center, social justice is one of our core values—it is foundational to our work and our guiding philosophy. We state “We are invested in building coalitions to dismantle systems of inequality and work together to rebuild and create more liberatory spaces on campus and beyond.”
Q. How can all members of the campus community make this a better place for people with marginalized genders and sexualities?
A. I think that self awareness, self exploration and engaging more deeply in social justice work is important. I think it’s difficult to offer support if you haven’t done any self reflection about what your own framework and philosophy is around diversity and inclusion. Also, I think there are passive and active things that people can do to show their sense of allyship. That can range from reassessing the language one uses, affirming and validating someone’s gender identity/expression, stepping out of one’s comfort zone to try and explore new things, letting people be the authors of their own lives (i.e., allowing space for people to tell you who they are vs. assuming you know who they are), participating in educational opportunities, advocacy, etc. Ultimately, I think that once someone says they are an ally to LGBTQA people and/or other marginalized groups that’s when the real work begins. Ask yourself, how would people know that you are an ally beyond you just saying that you’re one. I think that is a useful activity for people to engage in. And please know that this list isn’t exhaustive. These are just a few things that quickly come to mind.
Q. On a national or international level, what is the current or next big issue for the LGBT rights movement? How are students active in that movement?
A. Honestly, I have no idea how to answer this question. The current state and future state of our country regarding diversity and inclusion is completely unknown to me. I want to be hopeful that we can work toward a more liberatory society, but at times it’s difficult to imagine a world that is not yet. As I reflect on this question, it’s difficult for me because the tragedies at Pulse in Orlando, or other recent tragedies involving other marginalized populations remind us that this world isn’t safe for everyone. There is still so much work to do around racism, queerphobia, transphobia (just to name a few) and the intersections of those identities and many other marginalized identities. I can’t think about the next big issue because I’m still grieving. While many have moved on or feel that these tragedies don’t impact them directly, I think it is still very real and present for many LGBTQA people, conscious allies and those committed to social justice. In June, I wrote a statement surrounding Pulse on behalf of our LGBT Resource Center. And I guess I’ll close with an excerpt from that statement:
We see you
We are here for you
We are in solidarity with Orlando and all people with marginalized genders and sexualities and …
We will continue to be advocates for social justice and liberation not only for ourselves but for others.