Pride and connection: LGBTQ+ Hub debuts to unite and serve CU Anschutz communityJun 21, 2022
On a warm afternoon in November 2021, a handful of volunteers gathered under a small tent at Boettcher Commons, cheerfully laying out T-shirts, lanyards, stickers and buttons on a table. The buzz in the air was about more than just the kickoff event’s swag and snacks: After years of disconnection and pandemic-induced isolation, the clouds literally parted for the opening of the CU Anschutz LGBTQ+ Hub, the university’s first-ever official, campus-wide organization dedicated to connecting and championing the LGBTQ+ community at CU Anschutz.
“When I came to campus as a student, I was like, ‘Where are the resources for queer students? Where are the resources for queer faculty and staff?’” recalled Laurel Beaty, MS, a 2021 graduate of the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) who works as a biostatistician at the Center for Innovative Design and Analysis. “I couldn’t find the answer. So when I got the email that the LGBTQ+ Hub was happening, I immediately said, ‘How can I jump on board?’”
“I had a very similar experience,” said third-year radiation oncology resident Kareem Fakhoury, MD, as he and Beaty detangled Hub lanyards and arranged them on the swag table. “I was looking for a way to connect with LGBTQ community on campus, and I didn’t really know where to go.”
Perhaps no one had become more aware of the disconnect among the CU Anschutz queer community than Steven Burton, MPH, whose research into transgender and gender diverse populations as a ColoradoSPH graduate student provided insights that sparked conversations with a broader swath of LGBTQ+ persons on campus. “As I reached out to different students and staff, stakeholders across the Anschutz campus, and alumni across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, I kept hearing a resounding message,” Burton said. “I feel invisible. I feel isolated. I feel alone. I can’t find community here.”
Meeting the Need for Connection
While the need for connection had long been palpable to many LGBTQ+ individuals on campus, efforts to formally connect the CU Anschutz queer community came into focus in fall 2020, when Chancellor Donald Elliman appointed Regina Richards, PhD, MSW, associate vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Richards asked Burton to lead the creation of a campus-wide organization to bring together and uplift the LGBTQ+ community, connect myriad queer groups on campus, centralize resources, “and create a welcoming space,” said Burton, who was gratified when over 100 people attended his first outreach meeting to gauge interest in building a formal CU Anschutz queer community.
“To me, the most important aspect of creating the Hub was to connect people and let them know they’re not alone, and to show the campus’ support for our community,” Burton said. “Even if someone doesn’t feel comfortable coming out, it’s important to know that our campus stands behind them. We can honor and be proud of being part of the LGBTQ+ community. There is so much beauty and color and diversity among us, so many positive things for us to share, learn from and celebrate.”
“Our campus-wide vision is for an inclusive campus community,” said Richards. “Establishing the LGBTQ+ Hub is an initiative that supports that vision.”
Emphasis on inclusivity, major focus areas
Together with volunteers across the CU Anschutz queer community, Burton established Hub advisory committees that support programs and services in four main focus areas: research; education and advocacy; support and resources; and community and events. “One component I really love about the Hub is that we invite anyone who wants to be part of an advisory committee – students, staff, faculty, community members – to have a voice in our discussion and the actions we take,” Burton said.
“It's really wonderful that we are so close to the hospitals, because we can start making an impact on patient care by educating medical providers to have more awareness and understanding of the healthcare experiences of queer people,” said Kendra Ferrier, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Human Medical, Genetics & Genomics Program. “For example, a non-binary person may seek treatment for an issue related to their genitalia. This might be a challenging or sensitive topic for them. Knowing how to be respectful and thoughtful as a provider in those kinds of situations will help LGBTQ+ people feel more comfortable and freer to seek care.”
“I wanted to jump on board the Hub because I love feeling heard and represented,” said Ahmad Adi, MD, MPH, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry who serves on the Education and Advocacy Committee. “I love knowing that there's someone who's got my back. If any issues come up, specifically related to my being gay or being in the LGBTQ community, I can talk to someone on campus who is not necessarily my direct supervisor or in my department.”
Togetherness, for real
Burton and company launched the LGBTQ+ Hub virtually in March 2021, making the most of digital connectivity while COVID-19 protocols limited in-person gatherings. Physical headquarters for the Hub were requisitioned in fall 2021, prompting the sunny, swag-tastic kickoff event. Following renovation delays and Omicron-diminished winter activities on campus, efforts culminated with the space’s official opening in Room 2101 of the Education 2 North building in April 2022.
“It’s awesome how multifaceted the Hub is, in terms of research and resources,” Fakhoury said. “But the thing I’m most excited about is having a space for community, for people to get to know each other, to support each other and just be together.”
“We’re all coming together as a community,” Burton said, his voice reverberating with joy. “I love hearing from people about their different backgrounds, how they got to this particular point in time, the communities that they built with their friends, their families, their neighborhoods. I’ve even had faculty members come out to me, saying they feel so much more comfortable with who they are after seeing me in this position, and the work we’re doing with the Hub. Being witness to that, to the diversity of our campus and the impact we’re having … it’s beyond beautiful to see.”
“Even if someone doesn’t feel comfortable coming out, it’s important to know that our campus stands behind them. We can honor and be proud of being part of the LGBTQ+ community.” – Steven Burton, MPH
From establishing virtual connectivity to sparking joy at Boettcher Commons, to leading Pride Month events and offering robust support for queer persons and allies across campus, the CU Anschutz LGBTQ+ Hub is thriving – thanks to the nearly 100 faculty, staff and students who have come together to make it a reality, and the many who participate in virtual and in-person events and trainings.
“Getting to know people through this process has been super exciting and really, really rewarding,” Beaty said. “I’m especially excited for people who are newly joining the campus and won’t have to ask that question of ‘Where do I go for this? How do I find people?’ That answer is here. We’re starting it.”
This story originally appeared in CU Anschutz Today