ST. GEORGE – It’s not always easy finding a place where you feel safe to be yourself, let alone knowing who out there will support who you are. One goal of the recently created LGBTQ+ Resource Center at Dixie State University is to provide support and a safe space for students, staff and faculty who identify as a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
“It’s good to have this place,” DSU student Zsa’ Jade Ervin of Los Angeles, said. Ervin, who identifies as a part of the LGBT community, is one of three interns at the resource center. It’s a good space to have on campus because LGBT students don’t always know who they can talk to, she said.
“I can come here and talk to someone and it won’t be weird,” Ervin said.
Some incoming university students may not have had that safe place in high school or their community in general. This can be true of LGBT students from rural backgrounds, said Barrett Beck, an English instructor at Dixie State and the school’s part-time LGBT community specialist.
“So a lot of (the center’s purpose) is just letting them know it’s OK to open and come out of the closet,” Beck said, “and that the university is behind LGBT people as much as it is behind people who are straight and perfectly conventional.”
Beck, who is currently the only paid member of the resource center’s staff, takes the purpose of the resource center personally. She had her own difficulties in high school and wants to help those who may have moved away from similar situations.
She went to a rural high school and was bullied even before she came out. The bullying was so bad she had to drop out for a while.
“That’s why I really, really want to be here, to support students who may have similar backgrounds,” she said.
According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show that LGBT students in middle and high school are 61 percent more likely “to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in school due to sexual orientation.”
That increased stress can lead to heightened risks for depression, substance abuse and sexual behaviors that could result in sexually transmitted diseases, according to the CDC.
Thus far the public reception of the LBGTQ+ Resource Center has been good, Beck said, adding there has been community support as well.
The area’s own LGBT community raised and donated $2,000 to the center during the St. George gay pride event in June.
“A lot of people here came forth and spread their support,” Beck said. “We’ve gotten a lot of welcome here.”
The public will have the opportunity to support the resource center Sept. 10 during a luncheon held in conjugation with the DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival.
The luncheon will feature the directors of “Upstairs Inferno” and “Uncle Gloria,” LGBT-related films being screened at DOCUTAH this year. The event will be catered by Benja’s Thai Garden and is set to take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 in the Zion Room on the fifth floor of Dixie State’s Holland Centennial Commons.
“Center funds will be used to fund scholarships and support for LGBT students, train and hire staff members, send students to conferences and bring a richer array of programming to the entire DSU community,” Beck said in a statement detailing the event. “The LGBTQ+ Resource Center affirms Dixie State’s commitment to supporting all its students and follows the national trend of having LGBT resource centers on campuses.”
Tickets are $40 per person and are available at the Eventbrite website.
DOCUTAH, which is set to take place Sept. 6 to 10 on the Dixie State campus, will screen “UpStairs Inferno” at 8:10 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the Electric Theater in downtown St. George and 4:45 p.m. on Sept. 10 in the Delores Doré Eccles Fine Arts Center on campus.
The film exposes the heartbreak caused when a fire was set in the New Orleans gay bar UpStairs Lounge in 1973.
“Uncle Gloria” will screen at 3 p.m. on Sept. 10 in the Eccles Mainstage and follows the macho owner of an auto wrecking company in Florida who goes into hiding from the law as a woman, setting off a journey of self discovery.
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