Filling a longstanding void in north Los Angeles, the Pride Center opened its doors at CSUN in the fall of 2012 and created a sanctuary for members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Born from a student-led initiative, the center serves multiple purposes.
“The purpose of the Pride Center is two-fold,” said Sarina Loeb, coordinator of the Pride Center. “First, it is to support LGBTQ students, faculty and staff, and second to educate the campus community on LGBTQ topics.”
The center exists ultimately to enhance inclusivity on campus, Loeb said. Made possible with funding and support from the University Student Union and the university’s Campus Quality Fee, the center kicked off its inaugural year in grand style.
“The Grand Opening will be a day that I will always remember,” said Loeb. “It has always been a dream of mine to have an LGBTQ Resource Center in the San Fernando Valley and that dream became a reality on that day.”
The grand opening celebration gathered supporters from around the country and featured a NOH8 (No Hate) Campaign photo shoot. The year that followed launched a Peer Mentor Program that provided 16 trained students to mentor fellow Matadors, and the Pride Center facilitated more than 30 LGBTQ Awareness presentations for the CSUN Ally Project, reaching more than 600 people.
FAGBUG drove onto campus to educate the campus community about hate crimes and the LGBTQ community; Tuesday Talks were weekly discussion groups that explored LGBTQ topics; and LGBTQ Coffee Nights was a weekly gathering of students, faculty and staff.
“For most of the students, the Pride Center is a home away from home,” said Pride Center Peer Mentor Cadence Valentine. “Whether playing games at coffee nights, discussing relevant issues during Tuesday Talks or just catching a study session, movie or nap, it is the hub of their CSUN experience. For others, it was the bridge they needed in accessing help through a mentor, information through the resources provided and/or companionship and siblinghood through their fellow students.”
In two significant campus collaborations, the Pride Center sponsored Transgender Awareness Week with members of LGBTQA, Matadors for Equality, Vote for Equality, Gamma Rho Lambda, and the Women’s Research and Resource Center. It hosted Rainbow Graduation with the Queer Studies Program, and for the first time in campus history, CSUN members and allies coalesced to walk in the Los Angeles LGBT Pride Parade.
Other campus collaborators included the CSUN Queer Studies Program (College of Humanities) and the CSUN LGBTQ Alumni Association. Student organization partners included LGBTQA, Matadors for Equality, Vote for Equality and Gamma Rho Lambda.
“The physical space provided a safe and nurturing area in which students could gather with like-minded students, hang out, study, exchange ideas and learn about one another,” said Cadence, a Psychology major, Queer Studies minor and CSUN senior. “While externally, the Pride Center and its staff offered a barrage of programming, co-sponsorship and a steadfast commitment to promoting campus-wide inclusivity and education for the LGBTQ population.”
Off campus, the Pride Center worked with the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and the Trevor Project. As the only LGBTQ center in the San Fernando Valley, the Pride Center served as a resource for the surrounding community as well, providing numerous trainings for off-campus groups at the Sepulveda Vet Center, Child and Family Guidance Center, Briggs Elementary School, and the Upward Bound program at Occidental College.
While the Pride Center has been a visible and supportive climate for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff said Loeb, not everyone has walked through its doors.
“Over the past year, I”ve had several students contact me excited about the Pride Center and reiterating its importance to the community,” she said. “Some students have expressed that they are not comfortable visiting the Pride Center yet (due to not being ‘out’ or comfortable with their sexuality), but feel a sense of comfort just knowing that it’s there.”
As more students make their way to the center, Valentine said they will come to understand, as she did, the wealth of community that is found there.
“I have been able to achieve building an ever-growing awareness of my community, spread education through the ally trainings and program opportunities, and connect with other students in the community,” she said. “For all of that, the Pride Center has been the central hub that has made that all possible and it is a resource, [that] once realized, [is] something we as a community wonder how we ever did without.”