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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

LGBT center celebrates decade

Nicole Blum ’06 celebrated her third anniversary with her wife on Tuesday in Wisconsin. Blum entered Ithaca College focused on field hockey and softball and spent much of her freshman and sophomore years believing she was straight.

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Lis Maurer, program director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center on campus, stands in the LGBT center in May. File Photo/The Ithacan

“I didn’t even realize I had the potential to be interested in the same sex,” Blum said.

During her sophomore year, Blum was introduced to a crew member who was involved in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community on campus.

“It opened my eyes to a completely different lifestyle,” Blum said. “Ithaca was very progressive in the LGBT aspect.”

Blum was involved with the student group Created Equal, an LGBT organization, for two years and said the LGBT center changed her outlook for the better.

“The LGBT center had a very significant role in my life and changed who I am as a person,” Blum said. “You have the ability to be comfortable in who you are and the understanding that it is okay to be out and proud in the community.”

The LGBT center will celebrate its 10th anniversary during Fall Splash this year with a lineup of events.

Over the last decade, the center’s staff has experienced improvements in resources and organization.

Lis Maurer, program director of the LGBT center since its founding, said the center started as a proposal by mostly straight students who supported gay rights to address the needs of the LGBT community that were not being met and to improve the environment for LGBT students on campus.

“It seemed that LGBT students were dropping out at a very high rate,” Maurer said. “They felt that if students had a place where they could air their concerns, worries and successes with someone in the role of a listener and advocate, they would feel their needs were being met.”

Maurer said the center started as a bare-bones operation, and focused her first few weeks to providing the center with new resources.

“We had some space, but it was an empty space,” Maurer said. “There were some chairs and a table and some comfy furniture, but nothing else.”

Today, the resource room is home to three computer workstations, more than 1,000 books and videos, and a roster of student volunteers.

Beyond additional resources, Maurer said, the LGBT center has grown because of improving attitudes toward its community. This year, Newsweek placed the college on a list of the top 10 gay-friendly campuses.

The Campus Pride Climate Index awarded the college a perfect five stars two years in a row for creating a safe environment for LGBT students. Last year, the college was one of 19 campuses to receive a perfect score.

This is also the first anniversary the LGBT center will celebrate since same-sex marriage was legalized in New York state in June.

Mary Edwards-Ransom ’04 said she and her fiancée, Gina Evers ’05, moved to Washington, D.C., when Evers enrolled in graduate school. While the couple originally hoped to get married in New York, Edwards-Ransom said D.C.’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2010 led the couple to marry there.

“We decided since D.C. had just passed a marriage equality law, and we’ve been together for five years, maybe this is a sign we should get married,” Edwards-Ransom said.

Edwards-Ransom said she and Evers were excited, but also a little heartsick when New York legalized same-sex marriage, since there was no way to move the wedding the New York.

Shelley Facente ’02 will speak at the alumni panel at 2 p.m. Saturday in Clarke Lounge. She said celebrating Fall Splash wouldn’t have felt right without honoring the LGBT center.

“For me, and for a lot of other students, when the center was established, the experience of having the LGBT center on campus was such a huge part of shaping our experience at Ithaca,” Facente said.

Facente said there has been a perceptible change on campus in the treatment of LGBT students on campus.

“The culture has shifted enough that it feels like a central part of the campus at IC,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a deficiency that needs to be corrected. It feels like something that is just there, and it is a supportive feeling.”

Sophomore Isabel Galupo, a student worker at the LGBT center, said the Fall Splash events are a great way for current students to meet alumni not just for career networking, but also for life networking.

“My expectation is that these events will be thought-provoking,” Galupo said. “This is a great opportunity for students to meet interesting alumni who have very interesting stories.”

Maurer said though her work with the LGBT center isn’t finished, she is grateful to be a part of the college community.

“It is really an honor and a privilege to work at a place where many  people genuinely care — to be part of a campus that values difference and wants to do the right thing for students,” Maurer said.