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Monday, March 18,2013

Open for everyone

MSU’s LGBT resource center welcomes students with an open house

by Nyssa Rabinowitz
Wednesday, Aug. 31 — You don’t need to be a member of the LBGT community to visit the LBGT resource center on MSU’s campus. In fact, most people who visit are straight, the center’s assistant director says.

“The reality is if we look at the number of persons that are served by this office, overwhelmingly we serve the heterosexual population,” Deanna Hurlbert said.

Hurlbert helped host an open house today at the center for students, faculty, staff and community members. They were welcome to attend and peruse the resources in the center and get information about upcoming events. One such resource is the center’s library, which offers a variety of books on gender and sexuality available for checkout.

The center’s work is two-fold: to better prepare everyone to deal with issues of sexuality and gender in their everyday lives through trainings and educational programs and to make sure that students who feel marginalized by their sexuality or gender strive at the university.

Last year alone, 87 percent of the over 1200 students that participated in the center’s educational programs identified as heterosexual, Hulbert said.

“It can be a shock coming here and having issues of sexuality and gender just being a part of the normal conversation,” Hurlbert said. “For people to be out and to have people not be ashamed can be really disconcerting for some kids.”

Having the center as a part of the university, rather than a student organization, not only helps non-LBGT members by offering an open resource to everyone, but it also helps members of the LBGT community as well, Hurlbert said.

“The existence of this office, the fact it is a part of the university … means that the university respects and values their existence in ways that they don’t get elsewhere in their lives,” she said.

The center’s resources and welcoming atmosphere certainly helped sophomore Elliot Zirulnik when he was a freshman last year.

“I felt kind of isolated and these resources like the resource center and groups around campus were very helpful,” he said. “It means that you are accepting of all sorts of sexual and gender identities and you’re proud of who you are.”

Not only is Zirulnik involved in the center’s classroom panel program, he also participated in the center’s freshman seminar program, New2U, which focuses on retaining students by making them feel connected and is an executive board member of RING, north campus’ LBGT student alliance group.

“I think it’s a very welcoming environment here,” he said. “I like it a lot.”

The LBGT Resource Center is located in room 302 of the student services building across the street from the Mason/Abott residence hall. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Check out its website at lbgtrc.msu.edu for upcoming events and speakers.
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