LGBTQA Initiatives Office Rebrands to Serve Wider Community

New logo for FIU’s Pride Center. Graphic by the Pride Center.

Jesse Fraga / Assistant News Director

For nine years, the FIU LGBTQA Initiatives office merely addressed six gender and sexual identities in its acronym. Last week, the office changed their name to better serve more than just these groups.

The office, now known as the Pride Center, officially announced their rebranding in an Instagram post on Friday, April 2.

“We felt that the Pride Center better represents the inclusive, intersectional work that we do to support our Panthers who are marginalized because of their gender identities, and sexual and romantic orientations,” said Erica Jayne Friedman, associate director of the Pride Center, in the post.

Their mission to empower and educate the community on all genders and orientations remains the same. However, Friedman hopes the new name is a step toward creating a welcoming environment for students to gather.

“[Physical space] is the goal,” said Friedman. “It costs money to renovate, or build a new space, so we’re always looking for donors and people who support the concept of creating brave spaces for students… and feel like they have a home on campus, where they might not even have a home back in their own communities.”

Sexually marginalized adults are twice as likely to experience homelessness than heterosexual adults, according to a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute School of Law. The study also found eight percent of transgender adults experience homelessness, compared to three percent of cisgender adults.

Mercury Luna Neon, a junior studying anthropology, was homeless for a week after surviving abuse at home. The center became a second home for Neon.

“I struggled to find a place where I felt safe, and [Friedman] really helped me in finding safety and security to be who I was, and feel okay and safe,” said Neon. “[The office] distracted me from my struggles of unemployment, being in debt, academics, family strains and helped me keep up with friends.”

As someone who identifies under the marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex (MOGAI) umbrella, Neon feels included in the new name.

“I love the new name,” said Neon. “It’s inclusive and I feel seen as someone who is not only queer, but identifies as MOGAI.”

Friedman recalled a meeting with students in December 2019 to find names that could better describe these students.

“We were talking about the acronym and how that can be so limiting because there’s so many identities,” said Friedman.

Joseph Cusco, senior studying computer science and vice president of FIU’s Pride Student Union (PSU), was involved in the brainstorming of creating a new name.

“I know when I was told [about the new name], I jumped out of my seat,” said Cusco. “Seeing new changes happening in that office always means we are taking steps forward for LGBTQIA+ students at FIU.”

Friedman explained how the original name was not always inclusive of ethnically diverse backgrounds.

“We serve such a diversity of students and even the acronym itself is a Eurocentric, very white, acronym,” said Friedman. “There’s a lot of cultures that don’t identify with it and never felt included.”

The Afrocentric identity same-gender loving (SGL), for example, often does not align with the LGBTQA+ community, while addressing both sexuality and race.

“SGL is an alternative to Eurocentric homosexual identities, [such as] gay and lesbian which do not culturally affirm or engage the rich history and cultures of people of African descent,” according to Black Men’s Xchange National, the largest and oldest organziation for SGL males and allies.

Friedman pointed out these experiences are often left unaddressed in LGBTQA+ conversations. They plan to better include these communities with the general term ‘pride.’

Milo Dupuis, treasurer of PSU and sophomore studying history and english, expressed gratitude for the name change.

“The word ‘center’ makes it seem like a place people can go to openly and congregate with a sense of community,” they said.

Dupuis explained they struggled to make friends while understanding their evolving gender and sexual identities upon entering college.

“I’m a major introvert, like super shy,” said Dupuis. “Freshman year me was a bit more closeted… Having seen something like Pride Center, I would’ve been like ‘Oh, let me go just to meet people. I probably would’ve been a lot more open.”

Dupuis now feels embraced by the term ‘pride.’ However, they used to feel pressured to meet certain standards in order to utilize the office under its original title.

“The word ‘initiatives’ might have scared some people off. It makes it seem like you have to make a specific change or want to achieve a specific policy,” said Dupuis. “Whereas with a center, you don’t need to have a goal. You can work at the Pride Center and always be accepted there.”

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