Vulcans Welcome LGBTQ+ Center

Coordinator Laura Sherwood outlines her mission

News Writer Valentina Martinez

Photographer Elizabeth Lough

Laura Sherwood
Laura Sherwood

In a sign of greater recognition and accommodation of LGBTQ+ students, UH Hilo has inaugurated its own LGBTQ+ Center. The center’s coordinator, Laura Sherwood, spoke to Ke Kalahea about her objectives.

“The main purpose of the center is to have a safe place for students and allies to come whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or if you just support equality,” Sherwood said.

LGBTQ+ Club

UH Hilo’s LGBTQ+ club, PRIDE Hilo, has been meeting in Campus Center’s Lava Landing on “First Fridays.” The group meets every Friday from 4-5 p.m., and hoped to move its meetings to the LGBTQ+ Center in time for its opening. Sherwood explained that after the Orlando massacre, UH Hilo’s chancellor was supportive of getting an official center opened to provide a “safe space,” instead of simply aiding the community through the Women’s Center.

Sherwood has been active within the “pride” movement, and likewise worked alongside the Women’s Center in promoting the debut of “The Vagina Monologues” in Hilo. As for LGBTQ+ issues, Sherwood has also been a counselor to adolescents - including those who were transitioning into new gender identities.

According to Sherwood, the new center will be “more of creating a space where people can come and create peer groups, where if someone is coming out and they need someone to talk to or if they just want support or resources or just want to read about things, activities, or raising more awareness. We are doing Transgender Awareness Week next month [December]; we are going to be screening Kumu Hina and just getting more people involved of gay-straight alliance going.”

The center has a table full of books on the subject matter of struggling with sexual identity, along with related artists and artwork. Sherwood is hoping to start a book club, and hopes that any students with ideas to help raise awareness can relay those ideas to her office.

“I would like to see it as something where we involve the community, and we can have big events that involve getting people connected to resources, not only here, but in the community, and have speakers come from the mainland and other cool things... so my vision is to get more activity and inclusiveness in the entire community,” Sherwood said. “We can do anything, this is a student space so I’m just here to ask what is it that students want and I can help to be the advocate to create that.”

Sherwood emphasizes that the center is not strictly for people who identify with LGBTQ+, but for all community members who just wish to show support and inclusion. She discussed issues that cisgender people often take for granted, such as where one can go to the bathroom. Sherwood noted how a friend of hers - who is transgender and identifies as female - was fearful of how it could impact her at work. Another fear was that other people wouldn’t know or even recognize her transgender status. “It really brought that awareness of how stupid I am to even assume, Sherwood said. “It’s things like that that you just become really aware of.”

“We need more rainbows everywhere,” said an onlooking student, only identified as Savannah. “I am a supporter for equal rights to everybody.”

Front Desk LGBTQ+

For more information, the LGBTQ+ center is located in PB 9, at the top of the parking lot entrance from Kapiolani Street near the music rooms.