Lovely LGBTQ+ Center

A guide through the LGBTQ+ Center, its recent change in location, its mission, and other important and informational tidbits

Staff Writer Holly S. Trowbridge/ Photos Courtesy of Kevianna Adams

The LGBTQ+ Center has officially reached its third year on campus with various members and events occurring throughout the fall and spring semesters, including collaborations with the Hilo community.

“The LGBTQ+ Center was initiated by a lot of students, faculty, and staff who were really supportive of the space. It was under Chancellor Don Straney, who was the first chancellor to agree that we need a space for everybody,” said Destiny Rodriguez, a Confidential Advocate and Prevention Educator at the Title IX Office, as well as the Interim Director for both the LGBTQ+ Center and the Women’s Center.

The center was previously located in the Portable Buildings near the theater but due to construction, the center was moved to Campus Center on the third floor. “We noticed that in the two spaces there was not a lot of foot traffic and a lot of students didn’t know where it was. So for visibility, we decided to move it to the Student Services Center, which is how we ended up right next door to the Women’s Center,” Rodriguez continued.

When asked about the new center in comparison to the previous spaces with their various forms and functions, Rodriguez shared, “It’s nice for me to run to my other office, and it’s nice for the students to work together as well, but it is a pretty small, tight space. I do like being here versus the portables, but I also hope that we’ll have a big space for both centers someday. We’ll see what that looks like in the future but for now we’re here, and we’ll make an announcement if we do ever move again.”

“In my own opinion, the mission of the center is to provide a safe space for students, especially those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community and to show that there are resources, rights, and allies who can be there for you, whether that means that you just have a place to hang out, where you’re included, or where you can be your authentic self,” Rodriguez explicated.

When it comes to the sometimes sensitive subject of sexuality and gender identity, Rodriguez firmly believes that, “To have a student space is really important but also to be just a safe haven for them if they don’t feel comfortable. We know that not every student who identifies as LGBTQ+ is safe in every community. If we can have a little space for them, I think that that is helpful.”

Rodriguez’s passion for her current line of work is primarily because, “I really like to help people. I like to make sure students know their rights and resources. I’m a UH alumni, so when I was a student, I didn’t really know everything we had. In my undergraduate program, I volunteered at the Women’s Center and so it’s kind of a full circle to be back here and it’s really just a special place in my heart.”

Pride Hilo is the club that is associated with the LGBTQ+ Center. They often put on fun and goofy events such as drag bingo or ice cream and board game socials, in addition to some of their more serious meetings in which they draw up charts of what changes they would like to see on campus. The Pride Hilo club and the LGBTQ+ Center also put on different forms of educational talks and safe zone trainings, and they collaborate very closely with Hawaiian Island LGBTQ+ Pride, which is the Hilo community’s club that puts on pride festivities and parades.

In the terms of some common misconceptions about the center, Rodriguez sets it straight by stating, “One misconception is that the Women’s Center only serves women, but that’s not true. Both centers serve everybody. Intersectionality is huge for us to understand; for example, if you’re a transgender woman of color, you shouldn’t have to say, ‘I’m going to go to the Women’s Center for my women’s resources and then the LGBTQ+ Center for my transgender resources. You can go to a space that has it all.”

Altogether, the LGBTQ+ Center is a place with a focus on education and a space for the entire UH Hilo community to lean on. It is a location that has had many locations but is currently in the Student Services Center. The center is affiliated with the wider Hilo community, UH Hilo’s Pride Hilo club, and with the Women’s Center on campus.

As Interim Director of the LGBTQ+ Center, Rodriguez wanted to close by saying, “If you’re interested in volunteering, send me an email. Whether or not you want to come out yet, or you’re worried about it, we can sit and talk about it. It doesn’t have to be out in the open. We really value your privacy and whatever stage you are in with the coming out process.”

“You can question and not be sure of who you are, and that’s okay,” continued Rodriguez. “You don’t have to be stuck in a box because that’s what others are saying you have to do. Just be yourself and know that in some way you’ll be able to find people who support that.”