”It’s kind of like it’s time now,” Waters says of the need for other LGBT resource centers. ”We’re in a new era, where LGBT equality is not just something we talk about behind closed doors.”
Waters says Bowie State’s LGBT-and-allies student group, which has been involved in the project, received the backing of key administration officials on campus, allowing the process to move forward.
Jamale Stevenson, president of the BSU Gay-Straight Alliance, hopes the center will increase visibility of the student body’s LGBT population and lessen feelings of alienation that some LGBT people have, particularly in relation to the larger culture of the black community.
Melanie Carr, a student who recently joined the BSU Gay-Straight Alliance, says the center is important because it will provide students with access to information about the LGBT community, particularly LGBT students who can become familiar with LGBT history.
”It’s important that this resource center is highly visible,” she says. ”It shows that we as a community are willing to be engaged. We’re going to take full advantage of it.”
Jasmine Harvey, the Gay-Straight Alliance secretary, shares similar hopes.
”I’m a little nervous about opening, of some opposition we might get, but I think it’s going to be successful,” she says. ”I’m excited to see what people say in support of it.”
Harvey says that when she first arrived at Bowie State, she sensed some hostility toward LGBT students. The presence of a ”safe space” where LGBT people can be comfortable and open about their sexual orientation, she says, may go a long way to instead make the campus more diverse and welcoming.
”I feel like there are a lot of LGBT community members at HBCUs that feel they have to keep quiet about their sexuality,” she says. ”But once they see that one campus does it, and they see it’s not the end of the world, that attitude will hopefully be adopted by other colleges and universities.”
[Editor's note: When first posted, Jamale Stevenson's first name was incorrectly written as "Janele." Metro Weekly regrets the error.]