Since the foundation of the Society of Human Rights in 1924, which is the first known gay support group, the battle to achieve equal rights for the gay community has become more fervent. Bellevue College has been taking huge strides in student equality the last few months and that hard work culminated September 30 with the opening of the new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual Queer (LGBTQ) resource center. The ribbon cutting was performed by popular drag queen Miss Coco Peru and symbolized a new level of unity for the students who attend the school.
BC’s Gay Straight Alliance went from being in charge of nothing more than a cubicle, to roughly a thousand feet space on the second floor of the C building. The members of the GSA spent the last few weeks painting the room and preparing it for the grand opening ceremony last Wednesday.
“A few years ago there wasn’t even a Gay Straight Alliance club” said Tim Abramson. “So for us to come this far, this fast, means a lot.”
The festivities kicked off in the early afternoon with a performance by Peru, which entertained both gay and straight members of the audience. The auditorium was more than a third full, giving Peru a well-sized audience to perform to. The show included a bubble machine, a slightly modified version of a popular Disney song and numerous references to Peru’s Spanish husband, not to mention the fits of profanity.
“When I went to college, there was nothing,” Peru said. “Had I known that there was a support system, or that there were straight people that would be part of an alliance, it would have made it all so much easier. When I set out to create ‘Coco Peru’ my main motivation was to be an activist. I wanted to make a difference in the world.”
Before she took the stage, the GSA presented the newly minted Lori Saffin Award to Lori Saffin, who has been the advisor of the club for the last two years. “We should have some kind of ongoing award to thank one person at the school who really did a lot for LGBTQ,” said GSA President Alex Simas. “Without her we would not have been able to get the people and resources.” The award will be presented once a year.
BC has Andres Munt to thank for bringing in the popular queen. As the Representative of Clubs and Programs, Munt sent an email to Peru’s people not expecting an answer. When he got one, Munt was the one that led the charge for funding and preparing for the event.
Of course, the real highlight was the opening of the new resource center. The room features a new coat of paint, a new widescreen TV and a pair of cubicles with all the amenities.
“I’ve heard from many people around the school who have been here for a long time that our club this past year has made incredible amounts of progress.”
All the signs that were posted for the appearance of Coco Peru and the hype have not necessarily translated into awareness of the club. Despite the changes that have been made around the school, Ambramson says there is a long way to go.
”If you ask students on campus if they know this is here, a lot of them will say no,” said Abramson.
While progress has certainly been made, people in the gay community still face harassment and degradation, making the new resource center all the more vital. Students are still harassed and are unable to navigate the campus grounds like non-gay students.
“We have incidents reported to faculty on a weekly basis,” said Abramson. “It happens all the time. Bellevue College campus is not safe for a gay or a lesbian couple to walk hand in hand.”
Thankfully, the new resource center will provide a place for the gay community to unite and resist such disrespect, at least until such a space is no longer needed.
“In another 20 years it might (not) be needed”, Abramson said. “Things have changed a lot in my lifetime”.