Out and About
The Stonewall Center celebrates 25 years
UMass Amherst ranks in the top 20 campuses nationwide among LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students, according to The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. Based on thousands of interviews and in-depth research, the guide evaluates support services, housing, administrative policies, academics, campus social life, student organizations, and the local community to figure each school’s “Gay Point Average.”
“So objectively, UMass Amherst comes out very well,” says Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center, the campus’s LGBT educational resource center. “Subjectively, we also come out well. Students will tell you our campus is a nice place to be, and a lot of students feel comfortable being out, holding hands on campus, or presenting as gender nonconforming. Many students choose UMass Amherst because they know Amherst and Northampton are welcoming communities.”
Established in 1985, The Stonewall Center was the third of its kind on a college campus. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the center is holding a major series of public panels and events this fall. The series looks at LGBT law, athletics, literature, bisexual and transgender rights, AIDS, local history, religion, music, and politics. Highlights include evenings with Cleve Jones, developer of the AIDS Memorial Quilt; Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls; singer-songwriter Zoë Lewis; and writer Cherríe Moraga.
UMass Amherst is working to further improve the climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. One year ago, the campus added protection of “gender identity or expression” to its nondiscrimination policy. Beginning this fall, students transitioning genders can be covered by University Health Services for related expenses.
“Do we have incidents of intolerance?” asks Beemyn, “Absolutely, it can happen anywhere.” However, through ongoing advocacy and education, UMass Amherst strives to roll out a welcoming rainbow carpet to all.