Celebrating two decades of LGBTQ+ Pride on campus

Story by Herman Chavez

“Pride means authentically living with love rather than shame in who you are,” says Barb Kistler, the Colorado State University staff member directly involved with the beginnings of LGBTQ+ support and visibility on campus.

Anniversary logoOn Oct. 20, the CSU Pride Resource Center will be celebrating 20 years as an established organization on campus. Though the center is being recognized for officially being a part of campus for two decades, the organization has been unofficially on campus since 1971, when the first meeting of a small group of LGBTQ students was held in a storage closet in the basement of the Lory Student Center. The Pride Center has come a long way since its inception, and this fall’s celebration is but one step on a long path toward inclusivity.

History on campus

Kistler, the first director of SLiCE and former staff advisor for the first LGBTQ student organization at CSU, remembers what the environment for queer and trans people was like over 50 years ago when she was engaged in student involvement and support.

“Gays and Lesbians was one the first officially recognized LGBT student organizations in the country,” says Kistler, who pioneered the group in the early ’70s.

Pride Resource Center’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

Oct. 20, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Lory Student Center Theater

5:30-6:30 p.m. – Reception
6:30-8:30 p.m. – Dinner and Program

The celebration will feature student and faculty keynote speakers during the dinner and music by Mariachi Arcoiris, the only LGBTQ+ Mariachi group in the country.

Free for CSU students, $15 for faculty, staff and community members. Registration is closed, but to inquire about the few remaining spots, email Dora Frias at dora.frias@colostate.edu.

During that time, Kistler only knew of one other staff member who was publicly “out.” Even so, Kistler says that staff and faculty were always working very hard to establish a full-time advocacy office, including giving donations and volunteer support that assisted in starting up the center, which happened in 1998 when GLBT Student Services officially opened in the LSC.

Love Wins image

Transformations

In the years that the center has existed, it has adapted several times to now serve as a beacon for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. It has been relocated numerous times, developed various visions and mission statements, been assimilated to the Student Diversity Programs and Services cluster (which includes other centers such as El Centro, Black/African American Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center, and Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center) and, most notably, has undergone several name changes to finally arrive at Pride Resource Center in 2016.

“The Pride Center underwent the all-too-important work of a title shift,” says Dora Frias, director of the Pride Center. “We found a name that wasn’t a mouthful and that still made sense for our community. We’re figuring out still what it means to be the Pride Resource Center, but there’s a thoughtful and intentional process to make sure that folks feel welcome, included and that they see themselves represented in this space.”

As the Pride Center celebrates its 20th anniversary at CSU, and Frias completes her first full year as the director, conversation regarding the Center’s future is the new focus. Emily Ambrose, former assistant director of the Pride Resource Center, expresses how inclusivity continues to be the vision.

“Our values align with individuals being able to reach their full potential,” says Ambrose, now assistant director for training and development at SLiCE. “To do that, we need to feel loved and affirmed in a variety of different ways.”

Frias affirms that the center will be addressing intersectional identities through programming, increasing support for the trans community, and focusing on donor outreach to expand services.