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20 years of empowering LGBTQIA+ students

This year, the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Utah is celebrating 20 years of providing support, community, and advocacy to LGBTQIA+ students.  

“It was the first time I ever worked in an environment with other queer and trans people, and I can’t overstate how transformative that is,” Ella Blanchard recalls from her time working at the LGBT Resource Center from 2011 to 2019. 

The LGBT Resource Center was founded in 2002. What started as a small gathering space in the Union has grown into a pivotal center offering important resources, programs, and events that provide opportunities for connection for LGBTQIA+ students. Its mission is to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic (LGBTQIA+) students to grow as leaders and learners by supporting students in navigating university systems, exploring their identities, finding community, and developing as leaders with a social justice lens.” 

Clare Lemke recalls some major accomplishments during her time as director of the LGBT RC from 2019 to July 2022. 

 “I’m proud of what our staff accomplished during the pandemic to keep connecting with students, to help them navigate during hard times, and empower students to grow. I am most proud of the work we accomplished by creating a staff position to focus on a program specifically for queer and trans students of color (QTSOC). The space this program creates is so needed on our campus. It was important to me to work to institutionalize support for affinity spaces for queer and trans-BIPOC students so that such spaces could sustain in the future.” 

Two decades in, the current LGBT RC staff has big plans for the work ahead.  

“Our vision for the LGBT Resource Center is a vision for the University of Utah as a whole, that our impact creates a campus where LGBTQIA+ students thrive – within every classroom, lab, organization – in the fullness of their complex selves, supported by a community actively engaged in dismantling oppressive systems and critically imagining new ways of living,” said Shelby Hearn, LGBT RC program coordinator. 

Throughout the next 20 years, Hearn says, the U community can expect a strategic focus on inclusivity, activism, and community development from the Center. These efforts are currently being led by Kirstin Manuum, interim director of the LGBT RC.  

“It’s a real privilege to work with this dedicated team of staff and students to support LGBTQIA+ students. As we look to welcoming a new director, I am excited to see how their vision will shape the center as it moves into the next 20 years,” said Manuum. 

As the U honors this historic anniversary, Ella Blanchard encourages everyone to celebrate and reflect. “I invite people, on the 20th anniversary of such an important center on our campus, to imagine what 2002 felt like for queer and trans people. Celebrate and think about how far we’ve come, but also reflect on the things that haven’t changed. It’s a balancing act.” 


Gay-la celebration

Everyone is invited to attend the LGBT RC’s annual Gay-la, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary. The Gay-la will be Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at the Natural History Museum of Utah from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Find more info and purchase tickets here.