Queer organizations foster welcoming environment

The Queer Alliance and Resource Center, or QRC, has served as a hub for the queer community at UC Berkeley for decades while offering a range of student-led social, educational, and safe sex programs.

Its roots stem from the Queer Alliance and the Queer Resource Center, which began with student leaders involved in the free speech movement. After the two groups merged together, the organization expanded to include its first program director, Mauro Cifuentes.

Motivated by their previous experiences working with LGBT advocacy in nonprofit and public institutions, Sifuentes took over as Program Director in February 2021. In an email, they described student leadership on campus as “incredibly vibrant and energetic.”

“(QRC) is an opportunity to explore the progressive and radical possibilities of LGBT advocacy in a public institution that has the political will to institutionalize pro-queer and pro-trans policies and practices,” Sifuentes said in an email.

According to Sifuentes, the QRC plans to open a fully community resource center at Hearst Field Annex this fall.

Sifuentes noted that the space will bring the campus gay community together for meetings and events, as well as safe home and gender transition resources.

“While it is great for people to stay connected during the pandemic through social media and smartphones, the practice of building a community in person in the next school year will be critical,” Sifuentes said in an email. “Now more than ever we need to restore comfort and intimacy in the community together.”

According to its website, the Red Crescent Center is affiliated with at least a dozen other registered student organizations on campus that come together for joint advocacy.

Among those organizations is T-Cal, which offers a weekly support group that meets every Monday night for both transgender undergraduates and alumni to discuss their identities and experiences.

Rae Willis-Conger, who worked as a facilitator last year, joined T-Cal while working on an ethnographic research project, but later found a community.

“It was a frightening process to walk into a room like this and to think it might apply to me, and it ended up being such an important group to me,” Willis Conger said. “I’m neither a man nor a woman, and it was easy to feel isolated with this level of ambiguity, and instead I felt part of the transgender community.”

Willis Conger said that they “eat together and talk about what happens to us” during meetings and sometimes host social events such as walks and parties.

Another organization associated with the QRC, Out for Business, is designed to connect LGBTQ+ students interested in business and marketing.

Out for Business founder and president Teo Lin-Bianco reinstated the organization last year after it disbanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a very specific community that doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to connect outside of this organization,” Lin-Bianco said. “Having this space to connect with other people who identify with the same gender identity and are looking for jobs in the same professions is very valuable.”

According to Lin-Bianco, the organization has hosted events that support professional growth. This includes an app and workshop for the Out for Undergrad conference, which supports LGBT students in various fields.

Lin-Bianco noted that Out for Business seeks not only to serve career development but also to strengthen social bonds during movie nights and board games.

“Our space is open not only to people who define queer, but to allies and anyone interested in what diversity and inclusion means in the professional field,” Lin-Bianco said.

To connect with Zachary Khoury on [email protected]and follow him on Twitter at Tweet embed.

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