With the COVID-19 pandemic placing many student services at UWS in limited, remote settings, services like the Gender Equity Resource Center (GERC) have been thriving in their own ways on campus.
Though the services, programs, and interactions in the GERC have shifted to a primarily virtual medium, this change has brought many benefits that provide resources to students. The GERC, which acts as the Women’s and LGBTQ2+ Resource Center, creates an environment that advocates for individuals of any spectrum of diversity to explore their identities.
Along with developing larger conversations surrounding proponents of gender and sexuality, the GERC aims to give the UWS community a safe place for students to express and ask questions about themselves.
Although the GERC has remained active during the pandemic, there are still difficulties the center faces. T Leeper, the GERC’s Gender and Sexuality Programs Coordinator, expresses concern for engaging with students, and how the GERC can ensure a supportive shared physical space. “Virtual community is difficult to cultivate,” Leeper states. “In today’s society, there are less people utilizing LGBT services because they don’t want to be known by just one identity or calling their identity into question.”
Despite their recent shift due to the pandemic, the GERC has excelled virtually with the quickness of online resources and readily accessible online engagement. This has allowed for the GERC to get creative, with a consistent calendar of events they routinely keep while still adding new exciting things to the mix.
One particular event is their monthly Lavender Lunch, which is a supportive space for students to discuss identity and simply be in each other’s presence since human interaction is so limited. Along with the Lavender Lunch, which is held via Zoom, the GERC also works with the Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in their presentations of Community Talkbacks, which revolve around many LGBTQ2+ topics. This month, their presentation is on Supporting Autistic LGBTQ+ Students, and it will take place on Thursday, March 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Leeper also understands that the lack of physical community is hard on the students they would meet with on a regular basis. Though the absence of support isn’t easy on them, students still find ways to attend meetings, workshops, presentations, or lunches, regardless of being “Zoomed out.” Zoom meetings have their positives, however. Depending on the person, some students have struggled with the online environment, but others have thrived.
“Students don’t get misgendered as much due to an absence of facial cues,” says Leeper. “There aren’t any expectations for gender or identity performance. [Zoom] allows a space to curate your true self.”
Ultimately, the GERC has learned to adapt to any situation, global pandemic notwithstanding. Despite the GERC’s current community involvement being very programmatic due to the virtual environment, they still strive in providing resources to students of all backgrounds and identities. Organizations like GERC create a haven for LGBTQ2+ students, and they’re working their hardest to support people of all communities. GERC is here to empower students and provide education and advocacy for gender equity, sexuality, women’s experiences, and LGBTQ2+ identities. Anyone can explore themselves and their identity.
“We’re open for everybody,” Leeper states.
If you have questions, are interested in getting involved, or are curious about leadership opportunities with the Gender Equity Resource Center, you can visit their website, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit them in Swenson Hall 1031.
Leeper also holds virtual office hours for all students, staff, and faculty, every Thursday from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Appointments can be made by emailing email@example.com.