During the fall of 2019, Yale’s Office of LGBTQ Resources — which supports and advocates for issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity for University students and staff — saw over 5,000 visits. But this semester, the physical office has been empty amid a year of loss. It did not open this semester until the beginning of this month. For all of April, the office will be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
Only students enrolled in residence may access the space, though they must adhere to public health precautions including masking, social distancing, reduced capacity and a prohibition on food and drinks. According to an April 1 email, the office will keep a record of visitors to aid possible contact tracing. The office will offer students a physical space to meet with friends, watch movies, read and honor late professor Andrew Dowe, who had been the office’s associate director.
“In a stressful environment like Yale, which can be made more stressful by compounding factors like navigating gender and sexual identity, the resources that the office can provide — community, space, and information — are very important,” Les Welker ’22, a staffer at the office, wrote in an email to the News.
Welker, who transferred to Yale last fall, created and manages the office’s Discord server, on which he hosts Thursday night “unwind times,” which he hopes will continue and grow as the office moves to in-person programming. Though he acknowledged that he never saw the space pre-COVID, he thinks the physical office can grant students an option for interaction without facing Zoom fatigue.
According to Vincent Gleizer ’22, another staffer at the office, the reopening will give students access to an additional space where they can spend time, preventing them from feeling “cramped and constrained” in their residential colleges.
Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, emphasized the importance of physical social spaces for the University’s LGBTQ community in particular.
“Queer gathering spaces are very important at a time when some students have been living at home,” she said. “That [home] may not be a very supportive environment.”
She also noted that LGBTQ students may not have been able to interact with other members of their community during the initial quarantine.
Gleizer echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that it is important for LGBTQ students to be able to interact with faculty members who understand their experiences.
“These spaces are important not just for the physical space they provide or the events they sponsor, but because they serve as an anchoring point for our community,” he said. “The people who work here understand what being queer and trans in this world is like and are genuinely invested in uplifting the people around us.”
According to Trumpler, the office had been open in the fall, and they originally planned on reopening for the spring semester on Feb. 15. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and death of Dowe have posed an unprecedented challenge, Trumpler said.
“It was a big lift just to get open,” Trumpler wrote in an email to the News. “We will take it week by week. Between COVID and Andrew’s death, this is completely different than other years.”
She added that the office community will have to redefine the space without Dowe’s leadership.
Gleizer told the News that he first met Dowe during Bulldog Days in 2016, and the two grew close during their time working together at the office — particularly last semester, when COVID-19 restrictions meant the two were among the only people they regularly saw in person. He also added that Dowe’s passing has uniquely affected students of color at the office.
“I think it’s also really important to mention that at the time of his passing, Andrew was the only BIPOC working at the office in an administrative capacity,” Gleizer said. “While the needs of our [queer and trans people of color] community are a priority of the current office staffers, understandably the loss of a Black queer man in an administrative role at a university with already few mentors and resources for QTPOC students will be devastating and difficult to recuperate from.”
The Office of LGBTQ Resources is located at 135 Prospect St.
Jordan Fitzgerald| email@example.com