BY JEREMY SHERE
This coming November, the Indiana University Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Student Support Services will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
“We’ve been a resource not only for IU but for the entire community,” says Office Coordinator Doug Bauder, who helped found the organization. “We all have GLBT people in our circles, even if we don’t always know it.”
When the idea for an on-campus GLBT center first arose, anti-gay politicians in the state legislature threatened to withhold $500,000 in public funding from IU. So then-President Myles Brand funded the project with private money from the IU Foundation. Since then, GLBT Student Support Services has helped people embrace their sexual identity, sponsored movie screenings and lectures, built a library with more than 3,000 GLBT-related materials, and established a scholarship fund with the GLBT Alumni Association for newly out-of-the-closet students whose parents refuse to support them financially.
Over the past several years, Bauder says, the office’s role has changed, focusing less on counseling still-closeted students — many GLBT students come out during high school — and more on empowering students and residents to become activists and educators on GLBT issues. The office hosted meetings of a local chapter of Freedom Indiana (a grassroots group launched in 2013 to oppose Indiana House Joint Resolution 3, formerly HJR-6, calling for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage) and launched “The Midwest’s ‘Queer Mecca,’” an oral history project about elders of the local gay community, which can be found on outhistory.org. Bauder has also been working with local representatives of The Salvation Army to change the organization’s anti-gay image.
Yet despite a generally more accepting attitude toward GLBT people today, Bauder says, the office still serves as a safe haven for many. “Recently, a freshman came in and he was literally shaking,” recalls Bauder, who met with the student over several weeks about his decision to come out as gay. “We had great conversations, and soon he was not only starting to come out to his friends but also taking a leadership role in organizing against intolerance on campus.”
Looking ahead, Bauder is excited about creating a new GLBT-focused summer reading program for high school students and using a $40,000 gift from gay IU professor Frank Banta, who died this past January, to fund a book project about gay issues in Bloomington.
Significantly for Bauder, GLBT Student Support Services was recently invited to join the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs. “It matters because diversity and equity aren’t just about issues relating to race and ethnicity,” Bauder says. “Gender identity and sexuality are part of the picture, too.”