Building community for LGBTQ+ students and allies
The Cornell Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center was founded in 1994 to be the central hub of LGBTQ+ life at the university. The LGBT Resource Center is open to the university community, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and strives to be an affirming and welcoming space that incorporates principles of social justice into its programs and services.
Christopher Lujan, associate dean and director of the LGBT Resource Center, earned a B.S. in human services from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and an M.S. in counselor education from the University of La Verne. Prior to Cornell, Lujan was the LGBT resource coordinator at San Diego State University, where he developed support and programing for queer and trans students of color and an LGBTQ+ focused academic mentor program. He has also served as the education coordinator at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, where he supported LGBTQ+ homeless youth toward higher education aspirations.
What interested you about coming to Cornell?
I really wanted to make a transition into a university where intersectional work was a focus of the growth within the LGBTQ+ community. Cornell’s focus in this area, as well as the opportunity for intersectional programming collaboration with some of the other resource centers, is of great interest to me. And, Cornell has this reputation of creating global leaders, so having the opportunity to help develop that leadership with a queer lens or queer awareness is very exciting.
What type of programming or resources does the center currently offer?
Cornell’s LGBT Resource Center supports the LGBTQ+ community by providing direct support services, including one-on-one connections with full-time staff for referrals to on- and off-campus resources and the opportunity to speak with a confidential resource for students who seek emotional support or support when deciding whether to report misconduct. We also provide educational support for those who wish to learn more about sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We are committed to helping students find spaces that meet their needs, and if it doesn’t exist, helping students to create that space is also an option.”
We offer various kinds of events throughout the year like the welcome back reception, a Transgender Day of Remembrance and our Lavender Graduation ceremony. We have some long-standing programs, such as a mentorship program that pairs graduate students with undergrads and helps them build that connection from high school to college, and provide them with resources and a person to talk to if needed. We have a program called PEGS, or Peer Educators on Gender and Sexuality, which holds panel presentations where LGBTQ+ students go into various spaces and talk about some necessary information about the LGBTQ+ community, as well as their personal experiences.
What do you see as some of the greatest opportunities for student engagement?
The resource center offers mentorship and volunteer programs, which are great ways to engage with other students who utilize the space and who are part of the community. The resource center also has relationships with LGBTQ+ student organizations on campus and often co-sponsor events. These groups have various missions and goals, some provide spaces for activism, while others focus on building social environments. We are committed to helping students find spaces that meet their needs, and if it doesn’t exist, helping students to create that space is also an option.
How can students who do not identify as LGBTQ+ become allies?
A lot of what we do is build awareness and education for the entire campus. It’s important for students who identify as allies to attend events like the PEGS and Trans 101 workshops to continue to learn and listen to the needs of these communities. It is also important that allies engage in conversations that dive into how to use their power and privilege as allies to create active change for the LGBTQ+ community. Being an ally reaches far beyond taking a training or wearing a sticker or button, it’s about putting in continuous efforts to stay educated about the community.
What guidance would you give to incoming students who are looking to connect with the LGBTQ+ community at Cornell?
A great place to start is always with peer-to-peer interaction and by looking toward student organizations. Use the LGBT Resource Center to build that community. The lounge space is open every day, and there are always students and staff available to connect with. There’s a lot of knowledgeable people around who can help you find that community on campus.
The LGBT Resource Center is located at 626 Thurston Ave, Third Floor. During the academic year, staff are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and the lounge space is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.