The Gender Sexual and Diversity Pride Center supports LGBTQ+ students


Photo Courtesy of The Chaparral. Cody McCabe at the GSD Center.

Faculty, staff, college leadership and students were on board when College of the Desert decided to establish the Gender Sexual and Diversity (GSD) Pride Center in 2021 while all classes were still online. The center supports COD’s LGBTQ+ students. Cody McCabe, the center’s director, explains the first step during the spring of 2021 was to launch the website and the Canvas group. The physical space opened in the fall of 2021 at the South Annex.

Photo courtesy The Chaparral. Left to right: Mehgan Hassanzadah, GSD Center Faculty Advisor Giuseppe Vezzoli, Donna Blanton and GSD Center Director Cody McCabe.

“It is important to have resources that specifically target the needs and challenges of LGBTQ+ students [in order] to support their college success when it comes to completing their program, but also helps them with challenges they face in their private lives,” McCabe explains.

“It is so meaningful to have this incredible support of the College and to be in a community that embraces LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff. It is wonderful to be yourself in both your professional and personal lives,” Cody McCabe said, visibly moved. “It is wonderful to have events like the Pride Parade where we can go to celebrate our identity as well as the college. It feels really good.”

The GSD Pride Center provides several services for students who identify as LGBTQ+. McCabe highlights one of their many services: safe-zone counseling. Christine Schaefer is the lead LGBTQ+ counselor. She provides the same types of services that students receive from general counseling but with more consideration for the student’s situation. Schaefer also connects students with resources they may need outside of school to help them succeed. There are mental health resources and others that will cover things related to the student’s basic needs.

The GSD Pride Center does a lot of outreach and programming for all the students. They host events at the GSD Center, like open houses. The whole campus community was invited to participate in an afternoon filled with fun programs like karaoke, drag bingo, and a workshop on making the perfect drag makeup. McCabe explains how events have been a great opportunity to “connect our LGBTQ+ students with the rest of the campus community, [but] of course, LGBTQ+ faculty and staff as well.”

Photo courtesy The Chaparral. Students hanging out at the GSD Center.

McCabe further elaborates on how the GSD Pride Center provides financial aid support to the students and how they help connect students with scholarships through the financial aid process.

Students looking for leadership opportunities can also find them at the GSD Pride Center. A Pride Student Leadership Team is a great asset to the Center and students in the campus community in general. McCabe recalls, “When the Pride Student Leadership Team started to form, it was a turning point in our programming. It was so meaningful to have this group of students that invested their time in pushing the center forward. They engaged with the campus community and planned amazing events. It makes a big difference for the program when it’s student-led. The events were more relevant for all students in the campus community. That made them a bigger success because it came from students for the students.”

The Center is well-accepted by the students. McCabe says some students stop by regularly to check in with what is going on, while other students go to the Center to do their assignments or work on projects in the Center. Some faculty members are holding office hours at the Center.  The GSD Pride Center is where LGBTQ+ students can truly feel seen and celebrated.