COD opens new center for gender and sexual diversity


Photo courtesy of College of the Desert. Logo for the Gender and Sexual Diversity Pride Center on the main Palm Desert campus.

On April 26, the Gender and Sexual Diversity Center opened to students of the LGBTQIA+ to support them throughout their time at College of the Desert. The center supports students by having the Safe Zone Ally program, discussions about LGBTQIA+ films, workshops, events and scholarships.

For many of the LBGTQIA+ community, mental health is the ultimate struggle. According to a 2019 and 2020 study by The Trevor Project, “Sixty-eight percent of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including more than three in four transgender and nonbinary youth.” Stress and anxiety within the community can be attributed to feeling threatened, unsure of what others may think of them and feeling hopeless about the future. 

“During the pandemic, I think it has been an especially challenging time for our LGBT students. Not being able to come to campus and staying home more, some students may be experiencing a lot more stress and anxiety, especially if they have family members who don’t understand them or don’t even know about their identity,” said Christine Schaefer, a COD counselor. “We want our LGBTQIA+ students to know that COD is here to provide the space of a supportive community at the Pride Center even if we are off-campus for now. Being able to talk with a Safe Zone trained counselor can help reduce stress and anxiety.”

With the start of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Center, COD trained staff and facility in the Safe Zone program. The Safe Zone program is nationwide to allow people of the LGBTQIA+ community at colleges and LGBTQIA+ centers to find support to create a better environment for those within the community. Currently, COD has over 100 certified Safe Zone Allies.

Countless students look for scholarships and financial aid to help them throughout their time at college. The Baird Fransiak Scholarship is for students who identify as LGBTQIA+. During the Spring semester, 13 students received the Baird Fransiak Scholarship. It is expected that nine more will receive the scholarship during the fall. When putting in an application, students must answer questions about their experiences as LGBTQIA+ to keep people from abusing the system.

“So many of them are painfully authentic in the challenges that they communicate and the type of life circumstances that have really interfered with their successes as students. It quickly becomes apparent that these are students who could seriously use this type of support,” said, Director of the International Education Program, Cody McCabe

COD has a variety of scholarship and grant programs for the LGBTIQA+ such as:

Many in the LGBTQIA+ want to have a different name that associates with who they are. College of the Desert allows all students to change their name within the school system; however, it does not apply to legal documents. Students also can change their name legally, and they will need to go through the Admissions and Records Office or by clicking here.

College of the Desert’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance Student Club is a student organization for the LGBTQIA+ to have a safe place to gather and hold events to connect the community. They are open to all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. New members will need to complete a form to join or learn about the club. The club meets every two weeks via Zoom.

The club has a film series in which they watch a movie associated with the LGBTQIA+. It is unclear if the movie series will continue in the summer and fall semesters.

The movie “Moonlight” is currently available for free for all COD students.

“I am incredibly honored and energized to be a part of the COD faculty and staff team working to support COD’s LGBTQIA+ community. This work is about identifying, understanding and attacking the challenges our gender and sexually diverse students face. This work is also about collaboration, most importantly with our LGBTQIA+ students, and community members, and every other person or group who can help our LGBTQIA+ students succeed at COD and beyond. I look forward to doing this work with and for you!” said McCabe.

For more additional resources visit Gender and Sexual Diversity Center and for Safe Zone Allies.