LGBT office expands horizons with full-time staff

By Mary Zemaitis

For the first time, the Office for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered Concerns has a full-time director, Curt McKay, and a newly added assistant director, Khristian Kemp-Delisser.

McKay said the changes were possible in large part because of Chancellor Richard Herman. Herman came up with funding to support the full-time staff, as well as additional programming money.

“The use of the space increased dramatically so that we’re now seeing anywhere between eight and 15 different people coming by during daytime business hours everyday … and that just didn’t happen before,” McKay said.

The addition of Kemp-Delisser means the LGBT office can provide more support and programs to students. For example, Kemp-Delisser facilitated his first workshop, Trans 101, in the LGBT office Tuesday. The workshop covered the basics of gender and transgender identity and addressed myths and barriers of the community. A showing of TransGeneration, a series that tells the story of four transgender students, followed the workshop.

Victor Benitez, co-president of Colors of Pride and senior in LAS, said that since Kemp-Delisser is black, he brings a different perspective to the LGBT office.

“The LGBT office has always worked to bring different groups together, but it seems that Khristian can get it done faster,” Benitez said. “I’m really excited that he’s there.”

Kemp-Delisser’s background also is rooted more in the student services perspective. He received his graduate degree from the University of Vermont in higher education, which Kemp-Delisser describes as, “the study of colleges and college students.” He worked there as a graduate program assistant in LGBT questioning and allies services. He organized community development events in Burlington, Vt., with Americorp VISTA, a volunteer organization.

“I think of LGBT issues within social justice a lot more and that includes developing programs and events that cover a lot of issues, that just don’t talk about what it’s like to be gay on campus,” Kemp-Delisser said. “I would prefer to put on a program that asks ‘What is it like to be gay and Jewish on campus? Or gay and disabled?’ I see the intersections a lot more.”

McKay said the technology has increased the productivity of the LGBT office, as an e-mail list server has recently been set up. He said the list server lets them send out a list of events and articles each week so people can keep informed about happenings and political issues.

McKay is looking forward to the results of the LGBT campus climate survey.

“It’s the first campus-wide survey where we’re trying to get perceptions from straight people as well as LGBT people,” McKay said. “That would have happened even if I’d continued to be part-time, but it means that we’ll be able to do more with it.”

McKay also said the increased resources in the LGBT office will give him the chance to focus on different projects. He said plans on setting up an alumni group to have mentors for students and organize receptions at homecoming. He also said he would like to organize a graduation celebration for the LGBT community and an essay contest to showcase writing on LGBT topics.

McKay also said he sees the LGBT office focusing more on the female community, which has been underrepresented on campus.

“We’re actually going to do a town hall meeting with women and say ‘how do you feel about the community here at the University?'” McKay said. “There wouldn’t have been time for that before. I knew about it but just keeping things going ended up being major, but now we can look forward to ‘how can we make things better?'”