By: Tynan Power/TRT Reporter
On Thursday, Sept. 8, the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst opened its doors to more than 175 people at its grand reopening.
According to Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center, recent renovations have brought much-needed improvements to the center.
“We had complete kitchen and bathroom redos, new carpeting, new ceiling and lighting, new shelving, and some new furniture,” Beemyn said. “Plus, of course, the new wheelchair ramp to make us accessible.”
The large central space had a more open feel and students were already taking advantage of it, lounging on couches with slices of pizza and sodas. In another area, attendees spilled out of open glass doors onto a patio and the grass beyond. A festive spirit pervaded the gathering and Beemyn was kept busy handing out slices of cake.
“We had 143 students alone fill out surveys,” Beemyn said later. The information gathered will help the Stonewall Center provide needed services to students, faculty and staff, as well as the larger community.
Ongoing programs include board-game nights, movie nights and a lending library of books and films. The Stonewall Center also is home to the Speakers Bureau, which provides LGBTQ and allied speaker panels for a variety of settings. The center’s “Queer-E” weekly e-mail newsletter lists local events and other items of interest to the LGBTQ community, such as housing opportunities and studies seeking participants.
In addition to its regular programming, the Stonewall Center works with other colleges and community organizations to produce special events and bring in speakers of interest to the LGBTQ community. Upcoming events include a screening of “Against a Trans Narrative,” a film by Jules Rosskam, a visiting professor at Hampshire College. The screening will take place at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence on Nov. 17. The Stonewall Center also is involved with planning this year’s Northampton Transgender Day of Remembrance, slated for Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m.
“This year, the Stonewall Center is really focused on looking beyond the scope of LGBT issues and engaging in a broader anti-oppression agenda,” said Maru Gonzalez, a doctoral student in social-justice education and the new graduate assistant at the Stonewall Center.
“One of the collaborative projects I am most excited about working on this year is our series, ‘Building Community in a Divide and Conquer Culture,’ in which we explore the possibilities for coalition building. Our next panel is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8 and will focus on coalition building at the crossroads of religion/spirituality, sex, race and sexual orientation.”
At the center’s reopening, though, students were enjoying more mundane benefits of the center: free pizza and cake, transgender-friendly bathrooms and a safe, welcoming place to hang out on this sunny day at the end of summer. For LGBTQ students, moments like these may be precious and infrequent, but at the Stonewall Center, creating these reprieves is just business as usual.
For more information about the Stonewall Center, visitumass.edu/stonewall or e-mail email@example.com.