CU Boulder's Gender and Sexuality Center builds conversation for those seeking community

Taking pride in talking, listening to each other

What’s something about you that most people wouldn’t know if they were looking right at you?

Garrett Rose briefly considered the question and then wrote:

I get depressed a lot.

“I either didn’t know what to say or didn’t understand the question,” Garrett, now a senior at CU Boulder, recalls.

That was in early 2014 during an ice-breaker training session for the campus’ Gender and Sexuality Center. His peers didn’t think about it so deeply.

“Everyone else was like, ‘I have three dogs at home,’ ” he remembers.  

Garrett learned his answer wasn’t too personal.

“Somebody afterward said that my sadness was welcomed here,” he says. “It was one of the moments where I felt like I could be myself. I didn’t have to ignore what I was.”

He took that lesson seriously, and soon discovered that talking about who he is would define his CU Boulder experience. He came out as gay while in college. He engaged the campus community--“getting involved gave me a bigger sense that being gay was OK.” And he started pouring much of his time into the Gender and Sexuality Center, where he volunteered as a freshman before joining its small seasonal staff.

The Center promotes equal opportunity and supportive environments for LGBTQIA students, faculty and staff.

But Garrett says its goal is often simpler: “Allow people to talk. And listen to them.”

The Center’s reach is significant. It welcomes more than 15 visitors each day during the school year, and impacts more than 3,000 students, faculty, staff, graduates and community members annually with its programs. It offered nearly 100 educational sessions in the 2015-16 school year, including safe-zone trainings and peer education about gender and sexuality issues. Staff and volunteers talk with students and others outside the Center if they’re not comfortable visiting. And online tools allows visitors to interact with staff anonymously.   

Garrett says it’s vital that the Center doesn’t just serve the LGBTQIA community; it will reach any person or group that wants to ally with the Center’s goals.

For its efforts, the Campus Pride organization ranks CU Boulder among the nation’s top universities for its dedication to LGBTQIA students.

That outreach and success gets people talking: about their identity, about their campus, about their community. That builds a more welcoming environment, Garrett says.

“It feels like a home,” he says. “It feels like a community.”