Spotlight on: Laurel Cooper

Meet Laurel Cooper. She’s a second-year Bellevue College student getting ready to graduate. You might recognize her from seeing her bright orange hair around campus.

We spoke, crammed in the office space her club shares with two others. It’s a cubicle style arrangement that made me feel claustrophobic.

Just behind her, a large collage of pictures fills the wall. It marks her corner of the room off better than if she had outlined it with spray paint.

“I’ve had two formal complaints against me,” she said, looking at the wall.

“They said that the nature of the photos was too sexual. I think that’s just funny, I mean I can only see one, two, three…”

Sexuality is exactly what her office is about.

Cooper runs the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, and Allies’ Resource Center (LGBTQA) in the Student Programs building. She shares the small space with the Latin American Culture Club and the Black Student Union. Last month her organization made its biggest victory to-date, when it pressed BC administrators for a space in the Student Programs building, and got it.

“This little desk you mean?” she said, laughing as she motioned to the corner desk. “I mean it’s just a desk, really. It’s not a center that can fulfill the task it’s intended to fulfill.”

Laurel is bisexual.

“I don’t mind you asking,” she said, when I told her she didn’t have to answer any questions she didn’t feel comfortable with.

She’s unhappy with what she hoped would become an active center for students in the LGBTQ community here, who need a safe and accepting environment. “College is where most kids come out, you know? It’s really scary and awkward. I’ve had friends who have been beat up for maybe trying to hit on guys, or beaten up just because guys thought they were hitting on them even though they weren’t … I think it’s important to have a place were kids can connect and meet and know each other.”

In spite of the present recession, she still wants the funding for her center.

“If they will give that much money, like ten or fifteen thousand dollars, for the choir and the arts, then I don’t see why they can’t give that much money to help the students here,” she said.

I mentioned the immense budget cuts at Bellevue College. I asked her if the LGBTQ community here deserves the money.

“They have the responsibility and the means to fund us,” she said, referring to the Associated Student Government.

Although she’s determined to have a complete LGBTQ resource center installed on the BC campus, she’s not ungrateful.

“In the first Gay-Straight Alliance when I was here, there were five of us that met regularly. In the past couple of months, it’s developed into this group of like 20-30 kids … I especially want to say that the staff and faculty are very supportive; they’re very open, excited, and willing to let the student organization develop.”

Glancing back at her desk, she said, “I think that it’s a very good first step.”