The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN Pride Center preserves a safe space for queer students

Brandon Balayan
The Pride Center entrance on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. The center is open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Pride Center has served CSUN’s LGBTQ+ community for over ten years, and its mission hasn’t faltered since. The staff is still just as committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment on campus — they educate, advocate, fight for students’ rights and connect them to countless free resources, scholarships, mentors and more. Plus, the lobby is just a fun place to hang out.

You’ll find it in the University Student Union’s Sol Center on the second floor, tucked at the end of a hallway. Entering the Pride Center feels like entering an entirely separate world. It’s sealed off from the outside and nearly self-sustaining.

The center has couches, beanbags, chairs and other furniture with bright and flashy colors. A huge TV is mounted on the wall, with a PlayStation 4 underneath and a scattered collection of games. Their media library is stuffed with books, movies and magazines. There are computers and a microwave.

Every wall is a living scrapbook — homemade decor, pinned pictures, drawings, posters and other remnants from the thousands of people across the years that have called this place their home.

Whitney Workman, who uses fae/faer pronouns, is the current manager of the Pride Center. Faer team of two full-time staff, 11 student workers and five peer mentors work tirelessly to improve and protect the lives of faer queer and trans peers.

With generous funding from the USU, the Pride Center hosts a huge number of social events and programs, most recurring weekly. They’re incredibly popular within the community, Workman said. The room is often packed.

Their Coffee Nights are every Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. They’re cozy gatherings open to anyone, not just queer and trans students. Free coffee is served freshly brewed and snacks are offered. There is usually an activity, like a game night or an arts and crafts session.

T-Time is an event designed for trans, non-binary and gender-questioning students on campus. It’s a space for connecting with others and building community through shared experiences. These nights are every Wednesday from 5-6:30 p.m.

They even host a special coffee night for deaf and queer students on campus. It’s a “voice-off” space, where all communication is done through American Sign Language or notepads, Workman said. That’s an event fae wished more people knew about.

“We have that space completely for them. And we want them to take advantage of that space,” fae said.

These events aren’t meant to be stuffy Socratic seminars — Workman says that first and foremost, they’re just a fun place to hang out and be yourself.

“It’s not necessarily structured in that discussion space style where we all sit in a circle,” fae said. “There’s different ways for you to engage, depending on what you’re comfortable with.”

Free programs and resources are always available. They give out free condoms, bottles of lube and rapid HIV tests. They organize several scholarships for LGBTQ+ students, and they have a specially designed LGBTQ+ peer mentorship program for new CSUN students.

They’re even working on creating a pool of emergency funds that students suffering financial emergencies can request access to.

“About a little over 10 years ago, there wasn’t a Pride Center at CSUN,” said Sarina Loeb, the assistant director for CSUN’s resource centers. “It’s important to have a space where our students feel safe, seen, recognized, and really have programs and services specific for their needs.”

“I think for a lot of students, they’re just looking for a space where they can just exist and they don’t feel like they have to explain themselves,” Workman said. “And they don’t feel like they have to worry about whether or not someone is going to be hateful or harmful or violent towards them.”

It’s unfortunately a justified fear. The Trevor Project reported in 2023 that more than half of young LGBTQ+ people experience verbal harassment. Research done by UCLA in 2021 also found that transgender people are four times as likely to be victims of violence than cisgender people.

2023 survey statistics from The Trevor Project.

These statistics are one of the biggest reasons why Workman believes it’s critical for college campuses to have dedicated LGBTQ+ spaces.

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is on the rise across the country, and many students still don’t feel safe even in a progressive state like California.

“It’s not some distant thing in a different state,” Workman said. “It’s here in California. It’s here in Northridge. It’s here in LA.”

Chins are up, though. The Pride Center has plenty to be proud of, such as its successful push for increased gender-neutral restrooms across campus. Policies are also in motion to educate faculty and improve archaic computer systems that ignore students’ preferred names and pronouns. Workman and faer team are also improving gender-inclusive housing in CSUN’s dorms. In their hands, the LGBTQ+ community on campus should be safe for a long time.

The Pride Center welcomes with open arms all new CSUN students as well as returning students who may feel still trapped in their shells.

“We want to connect with you,” Workman said. “As much as you’re looking for the other people, they’re looking for you.”

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