Since 2019, Salt Lake Community College’s Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center (GSSRC) has hosted the Pride Picnic at the South City Student Forum, the space adjacent to the campus’s food court, with the aim of providing a community-building space for the queer community.
At this year’s picnic, held June 22, GSSRC Coordinator Peter Moosman spoke on top of a wooden box that read “Soap” — referencing the late, queer activist Harvey Milk — to convey the importance of the yearly picnic, which presents resources available both at and outside of the college.
“It’s important for institutions [like SLCC] to have a physical, visible space to take action and have visible symbols [that represent the queer community],” Moosman said to the audience comprised mostly of queer students.
Because the Pride Picnic only comes once a year, Moosman and his team wanted to see the creation of a recreational area that welcomes the college’s queer community all year besides the GSSRC office, which is located on the west end of the South City campus.
To fulfill that vision, the GSSRC and Queer Student Association (QSA) were readying to name the nameless outdoor courtyard that lies beyond the Student Forum as the “Transgender Justice and Liberation Courtyard,” and a ribbon-cutting was set to serve as the event’s main attraction.
However, a week and a half before the event, SLCC’s executive cabinet decided not to provide final approval for the change, citing college policy.
“While naming buildings or areas [after] specific groups is not in accordance with the college’s naming policy, SLCC leadership is doing what they can to support our transgender community,” said Chris Martin, vice president of finance and administration, when reached for comment.
“We will continue to stand in support for the trans community by offering courses devoted to LBGTQI+ studies and research, resources, and support services to strengthen their success, and community events honoring and celebrating their contributions,” Martin continued.
A committee that included Moosman and Associate Professor Dr. Anthony J. Nocella II had been working on naming the courtyard since last year. They worked alongside staff and faculty members from the QSA, the ePortfolio lab, and the criminal justice and facilities departments, going back and forth with the executive cabinet on possible ways to make the naming happen.
“We’re not trying to take away someone else’s [named] space, but rather offer a symbol of support to a community in need using an otherwise unused and unnamed space on campus,” Moosman said.
The initial goal, Moosman explained, was to do more than just hang a plaque, adding that the GSSRC and QSA initially laid out ideas such as a new sitting area, a stage for performances, and a colorful, student-curated mural.
“[Sometimes others] don’t recognize a need for a space like this for trans students,” Moosman pointed out. “They don’t recognize the need for trans visibility or places that are visibly queer.”
One SLCC student, an illustration major who wishes to keep their name private, knows firsthand the importance of having a visible space for the queer community. They heard about this year’s picnic through the GSSRC office, which functions as a space of inclusion and social support for many LGBTQ+ students and faculty at the college.
“A couple years ago, I was having a really hard time with home life,” they said. “I didn’t want to go home one day, so I went [to the GSSRC instead] to hang out because I’d heard about it from a friend. I’ve made some great friends ever since then … I just go there to hang out.”
After his opening speech at this year’s Pride Picnic, Moosman pointed to a QR code on a sheet of paper, asking all attendees to submit their thoughts about naming the courtyard after the transgender community. That same code remains available in the GSSRC office at the South City campus, room SCM 1-140.
According to Moosman and the GSSRC, there are some acceptance issues yet to be solved on campus.
“We’ve had trans employees quit because they’re constantly deadnamed or misgendered in the workplace,” he said. “Just last week, [a student] came into the ePortfolio lab and made a big deal out of tearing up a trans flag.”
While SLCC is not totally immune to the discriminatory acts of a few people, Moosman said having a visible space for the queer community would help.
“We’re not giving up,” he remarked.