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Birthday party celebrates Gender and Sexuality Campus Center’s 30th anniversary

October 12, 2022 By Doug Erickson

Marking a long history of connecting and being in community, UW­­–Madison’s Gender and Sexuality Campus Center celebrated its 30th anniversary Tuesday evening at the Pyle Center with an appreciation-filled gathering dubbed “The Big Gay Birth Day Party.”

“It’s not every day you turn 30, unless you’re me and you lie about your age,” center director Warren Scherer joked to the crowd.

The celebration coincided with National Coming Out Day and National LGBTQ+ History Month. Tuesday’s party included two “coming out” doors — one from 2012 that is completely covered in student signatures and sentiments, and a second one added this year to continue the tradition.

Senior microbiology major Griffin Poimboeuf signed the new door Tuesday and praised the center for providing assistance, resources, friendship and “a sense of security.”

“You can find people who respect you and accept you for who you are, and you can have conversations that are more difficult to have in other spaces,” Poimboeuf said. “They also have snacks, and snacks are very important.”

The center’s peer mentor program coordinator, Arya C., a sophomore computer science major, said “no one will ever ignore you at the center — it’s a very welcoming environment.” Tuesday was a particularly significant day for him, he said.

“This is my first National Coming Out Day as someone who no longer is afraid to tell people who he is,” Arya said.

Scherer noted that the history of the campus center includes multiple name changes and several locations. But Scherer told the crowd that the center’s core efforts have remained consistent: centering racial and disability justice; increasing inclusivity and improving campus climate; educating people about LGBTQ+ populations and their experiences; consulting with faculty and working with them on curriculum development; ensuring that LGBTQ+ students see themselves reflected on campus; and deepening a sense of belonging.

“And of course,” Scherer said, “it is always affirmation, support and celebration.”

The celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month will continue with a panel discussion titled “We Are Here: A Journey through Activism with and for LGBTQ+ Communities at UW–Madison” from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State St. The event will be presented by the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center and the Public History Project. The discussion will explore LGBTQ+ history at UW–Madison from the 1990s to now.