The Gender and Sexual Diversity Pride Center had its virtual opening in September of 2021. It was set to open in March of 2020, but those plans had to be delayed due to the pandemic. Now the center offers virtual services to all LGBQTIA+ students and staff. The physical center will be open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has plans to expand those hours when more staff is available.
Through the learning platform Canvas, The GSD Pride Center provides support and resources to facilitate the success, learning and achievement of College of the Desert’s LGBTQIA+ students. The center also serves as a space for educational programming, activities, events and collaboration that unite our LGBTQIA+ campus community, allies and the local community.
The center began when the LGBTQIA+ task force was put into place in 2018. “The task force is a group of faculty and staff who identify challenges for the LGBTQIA+ to have success at the College and develop solutions to meet those challenges. said Director of International Student Services and overseer of the Pride Center Cody McCabe. “A safe zone was one of the big, first goals we had.”
Along with counseling services, the center hopes to give LGBTQIA+ students a sense of community on campus. In the past, students have been invited to virtual trivia nights and an LGBTQ film series that screened Moonlight with commentary from film department staff about the film and its queer themes. Another way the center makes diverse students feel safe on campus is the Safe Zone Ally Program in which teachers and staff take training and commit to providing education, advocacy and safety to the LGBTQIA+ campus community. The counselors who work at the center have all been through the Safe Zone training. “Some of us, including myself, are facilitators as well. I’ve been giving the Safe Zone training and have been a facilitator since the beginning, so the Safe Zone training isn’t just for counselors it’s for everybody,” said Christine Schaeffer, who is a general counselor with the task force since 2020.
The center helps students by networking with other organizations in the valley that work with the LGBTQIA+ community. To reach East Valley students, the center will partner with the LGBT Center of the Coachella Valley in the 5th annual Coachella Valley Pride Parade by organizing College of the Desert representation in that parade. “Another thing that we have lined up for the fall is we’re collaborating with the Dreamer Resource Center for a speaker for Undocumented Student Action Week,” said McCabe. “We’ll have a speaker who will speak to LGBTQ issues for migrants and undocumented folks and refugees, which will be great.”
“October is LGBTQ Pride month and then in November, we’ve already signed up to participate in the Palm Springs Pride Parade.” Students who wish to take part in the parade can contact the Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club or contact the center for more information. The best way for students to find out more information or contact the center is through their Canvas shell. “This is also where students can find counseling information and sign up for a counseling session. We see a lot more participation in counseling because students can sign up through the center.” Counseling sessions are a good mix of speaking about school concerns and being able to discuss LGBTQIA+ specific issues. “Students share their identity, talk about concerns they’re having with families and school. I’ve been at the College since 2008 as a counselor and you know we’ve just started these services in the last year, year and a half.”
When asked about pushback from the public regarding the Center, Schaefer said, “I do have to say that at the beginning of opening the center, I had some concerns. Of course, we want it to be public. We want the community and the public to know that COD is welcoming and has this great center. I have been concerned that there would be some pushback from the public, but there has been none. I have not experienced or even been told about any, so that’s great.” McCabe added in regards to email blasts to everyone at COD, “There have been a couple of people that have said I don’t want to hear about this or we are discriminating against straight people but only a few and nothing involved. I feel like we are very lucky to be a state and part of the system of the California Community College system and a local area, generally speaking, that is very supportive.”
The center is a safe space for College of the Desert LGBTQIA+ students and allies, offering services to help them express their identity, reach their college goals and be part of the LGBTQIA+ community on campus. You can contact the center and find out more about the LGBTQIA+ community on campus, set up a counseling session or attend upcoming events.