LGBTQ students and graduates find acceptance and support on SJVC campuses
June marks the 51st year Pride Month pulls people together from all walks of life in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. San Joaquin Valley College is proud to share the voices of staff and faculty who are members of this community and who experience first-hand the challenges, changes, and advancements we, as a society, create together.
Patricia (Trish) Hruby, Fresno Campus President, has been with SJVC for almost ten years and has held various positions of responsibility on several campuses. Trish manages the campus leadership team and 90-employees committed to providing Medical, Business and Technical students and graduates with their greatest opportunity for education and career success.
Trish, her wife Kim, and their adult son Jason live in Visalia.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, what has your experience been like at SJVC?
It’s always been very positive to be who I am and be here at SJVC. Supervisors and coworkers have been accepting. On some levels I’ve served as an educator in this regard because not everyone has had the opportunity to work with someone in the LGBTQ community. Different perspectives add to the good of the institution.
At the beginning, I was a little shy, but once it was common knowledge it felt better. Casual information like, ‘Kim and I did this…’ made it more comfortable. It didn’t even require discussion or explanation – that’s the best part. I’m just allowed to be. I live my life just like everybody else. I go on vacation. I have a dog.
What makes SJVC a safe place for LGBTQ students?
This is a place where they can feel safe, taken care of and where they can be who they are. We’ve done overall training and sensitivity training, but you don’t have to raise the flag in support. You do little things every day to let the community know you are tolerant and it’s a safe environment.
Nice matters, really. On my campus, I would accept no less from anyone. Kindness and tolerance from everyone here – nothing less than 100%. It really is a culture of expectation.
How does SJVC smooth out some of the perceived barriers for would-be students?
New students coming in might bring a (same sex) boyfriend or girlfriend and feel a little uncomfortable. We give them a big ‘welcome’ and you can see their shoulders relax and they’re thinking, ‘I might be safe here; I might be ok’.
I also believe I’ve brought a change in conversation by knocking down some of those gender descriptors. We don’t say ‘husband’ or ‘wife’; we say ‘spouse’. We try to make everything standard. Constantly switching pronouns can be exhausting. And someone might have two mothers or two fathers. It can be eye-opening for people who might not have thought about it before.
What are some of the biggest achievements for the LGBTQ community in recent years?
The world has come a long way in acceptance in the last few years. People don’t hide the way they used to. They are more honest and open about who they are and don’t hide in the closet.
People can get married now legally – that’s a huge change. They can get each other’s social security. Someone can’t come in and take your children anymore. You can adopt children without having to lie about who you are.
What is the greatest threat facing the LGBTQ community now?
The biggest worry is retracting what we already have. Stacking the deck against us. The big milestones are marriage and adoption equality. Legislation might reverse some of that progress.
What kind of direction could you give to LGBTQ students and supporters who would like to become advocates for this specific community?
There are several organizations as well as service clubs for this community. PFLAG for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; many others.
There’s a group on high school campuses called GLAD: (originally named for Gay Legal Advocates and Defenders). Just the idea of knowing that club is there has probably saved hundreds of lives over the years.
What do you hope to inspire in your staff and faculty on behalf of all your students and graduates?
Students come in and although they have a dream, their life experience has not always been positive. My mantra is: ‘If you work here or are a part of our staff, all of your decisions need to be about making this a positive experience for our students’.
Students come to school and realize that the pieces fit, the program fits and they’re doing well. They’ve made friends and connections. They graduate and get a job. That’s the most rewarding piece of this.
There are long tentacles of good and just letting people be who they are, complete transparency is a gift. You can be who you are – and that’s OK here.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.