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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

LGBTQIA+ students, staff and faculty find support at SJVC

June 28, 2022

Support for the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual +) community on SJVC campuses is celebrated every June but is expressed and experienced every day in many ways.

SJVC’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee serves as an advisory board to all campuses. The DEI surveys, engages and educates various other student groups on campus and is an information and resource provider for students, staff and faculty.

SJVC recognizes the challenges of isolation, discrimination and oppression that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community face throughout their lives and want to lend support and encouragement to all who seek a safe haven in which they might pursue their education and career goals.

As SJVC’s Vice President of Enrollment and Graduate Services, Anthony Romo oversees leadership of the Admissions, Financial Services and Career Services departments for the college. As a gay man, Anthony also influences positive communication and effective support systems for all students, with pointed consideration for those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

 

How much importance does SJVC place on diversity?

Diversity is an essential piece of our identity. Many of our students are minorities, so diversity is in our DNA.

Our Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee surveys, engages and educates various groups within the college. They serve as a great resource to our employees and students.

 

What sort of Diversity Training does SJVC implement that supports the LGBTQ community?

Everyone affiliated with the college is a big part of the ‘voice’ that gets out there. The committee works with leadership at campuses where they discuss the importance of diversity on campus and learn how to better educate on issues that affect a minority group. We learn how we are meeting that standard as a college through shared feedback.

 

How does SJVC create a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students, staff and faculty? 

Each campus provides an atmosphere where it is safe to talk about their particular issues. Growing up, for me as a gay kid, these groups didn’t exist. You didn’t talk about it; you had to figure it out for yourself.

While we won’t have every (LGBTQIA+) student participating in a committee or group like this, having this representation is key for those students. And this awareness is important because it saves lives – both literally and in their sense of self. Suicide rates for this population (LGBTQIA+) are very high, especially with youth.

 

How do you measure the success of SJVC’s LGBTQIA+ community support?

We see a larger interest level and commitment from campuses reaching out. Since we started publishing (online posts) articles and showing our support, I have had more people reach out and ask how they can support the LGBTQIA+ community locally or on campus. Awareness brings conversations forward.

This year SJVC made Pride stickers available at the campuses, that can be worn. This is another visual that highlights our commitment but, more importantly, the local community. As a gay man, myself, I have to say that it really brings a smile to my face.

I did interact with students on campus, and they are happy to see awareness by the college and those that raised their hand are excited to share their stories.

 

How has SJVC’s culture of support for the LGBTQIA+ community affected you? 

I’m proud that SJVC put me – their first LGBTQIA+ Latino on the Senior Leadership Team. That they would know that diversity is important and take that step – that awareness and acceptance is important. Creating this awareness – sometimes that’s all it takes to encourage someone to be more accepting of themselves or to ‘come out’.

 

What has your experience as a LGBTQIA+ employee at SJVC been like?

The workplace has evolved a lot in the last twelve years. When I first joined SJVC I couldn’t have legally married my husband. (Same sex marriage was legalized in CA in 2013.) When I first interviewed, I knew the signals I needed to provide, such as ‘I am relocating with my boyfriend to Bakersfield’. There didn’t appear to be any hiccups. In fact, I was welcomed with open arms.

Probably 3-months after I joined the team I was asked if I would be interested in doing some type of workshop about the LGBTQIA+ community for our campus staff, faculty and students – an open workshop. To have an employer be proactive like that on sensitive issues and wanting to discuss them – that was huge for me. The name of my presentation was ‘Coming Out of the Cubicle’. It was not only rewarding for me, but I got to have the chance to educate folks – not changing minds – just educate.

Having a company that not only believes in diversity but acts on it…I could not ask for more, coming from the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m really blessed with my situation and my leaders.

 

What does Pride Month mean to the LGBTQ community?

It all began in June 1969 with the Stonewall riots in New York. Ongoing raids to the LGBTQIA+ bars and restaurants reached a peak and the community decided to take a stand. After much unrest, this moment in history launched a movement. The first Gay Pride began in major cities the following year to memorialize these events and bring awareness to LGBTQIA+ rights.

‘Pride Month’ invites awareness, education, acceptance and pride to our communities. It’s about those who worked hard to get us to where we are. It’s about learning and remembering those we lost during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. More important, it’s about showing love and acceptance.

It’s not so much about us being different, but more about how much we are the same.

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