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LGBTQIA Center – Gender and Sexuality


The LGBTQIA Center serves the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students by providing a supportive space, resource library, social events and educational programming. We are committed to understanding how homophobia and heterosexism interlink with sexism, racism and classism to perpetuate oppression. The Center also serves as a resource for the entire College community to learn about issues related to sexuality and gender identity. -2007 to Present

“Queer groups were constantly in search of a safe space to hold meetings and preserve our history.” -Rachel Zelinsky, ‘10

A Timeline Tracing LGBTQIA+ History at Connecticut College

The Beginning


1978- The Connecticut Connecticut College Gay Community was the first gay & lesbian student group established at Conn. Meetings were held in Fanning 212.

1979- “The purpose of the Connecticut College Gay Community is to serve as support group for gay and bisexual men and women, and to further understanding between its members and society at large.”

1983– Gay/Straight Alliance was created to educate straight individuals.

1984- Name changed to Gay, Straight, Bi Alliance to include the identities and experiences of all members. Lesbian was added later on, and the group referred to themselves as The Alliance. The mission of the group was to support students with such identities and educate the community about homosexuality.

Late 1980s The Alliance was replaced by S.O.U.L (Sexual Orientations United for Liberation), which aimed to provide better support for queer students, including those who were closeted or questioning, while pursing activism on campus.

1986The Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alumni Group was formed to bring together Alumni and the college. They provided support to current student groups and advocated for the LGBTQ community on campus.

1986- White lesbian, gay, and bisexual students locked themselves inside Fanning Hall with students of color during the Fanning Takeover.

1997- The dean of the college formed a task force to investigate the quality of life for gay, lesbian and bi-sexual members of the community.

Connecticut College Queer & Questioning (CQ)2- This student group began to meet weekly to build social and community ties. The group aims to support students in dealing with coming out and being out.

“Our examination produced a surprising realization: Although the College includes ‘sexual orientation’ in its affirmative action policy, Connecticut College is a ‘coldly neutral’ environment for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students…” -Dean’s Task Force and Sexual Orientation and Campus Climate

Finding Space


2001- SOUL held their meetings in Blaustein and shared storage space with the Women’s Center in the basement of Larrabee.

2002- Unity House came the meeting space for SOUL. (CQ)2 was given a small room in the basement tunnel between KB and Larrabee to for confidentiality purposes. This room was never used “due to flooding, mold, and inhospitality.”

2002SoulMates Big Brother and Sisters program was created with the mission to support the need of “non-heterosexual identifying” students and their transition to college. Upperclassman were encouraged to pass down their knowledge and experiences through mentorship.

Early 2000’s- The Physical Plant threw out entire boxes of resources and documents.

2004- Students used common interest housing to establish a queer themed apartment in 360. This home became a safe space while they worked to secure a welcoming and safe space on campus for queer students.

2005- SOUL and (CQ)2 secured the Burdick lounge for meetings. This space was minimally functional as only one student was given a key and the room was largely empty. There was no phone, supplies, or for enhancement of its function or student access.

2003-2006- (CQ)2 needed a welcoming place to hold meetings and form community. Students, including Krystal Guillory ’05 and Carrie Hackett ’05, started meeting with student government and the Office of Student life to discuss the necessity for places where marginalized students could find solidarity, affinity, and community.

2006- Queer students were frustrated with the lack of formal institutional support. The Director of Unity House, Elizabeth Garcia passed this to the Dean of the College Community, Armando Bengochea.

“We began to campaign for more support and programming from the administration and academic departments so that campus-wide programming would not come entirely from students.” -Alice Watson ’07

The Establishment


2006- Jen Manion was asked to mentor and advise LGBTQ students, officially becoming the Coordinator of LGBTQ Student Services.

Jen Manion, Center

2007- The LGBTQ Resource Center was established as “a safe space and resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, queer, and questioning students, faculty, staff, and our allies.” This was the first time students were give a dedicated space for gender and sexuality programming, located in Burdick.

“The Resource Center was founded in February 2007 by a group of dedicated students under the leadership of Dr. Jen Manion, Assistant Professor of History, and with great support from College President Leo Higdon; the Dean of the College Community, Armando Bengochea; and the then-Dean of Multicultural Affairs, Tracee Reiser. Many students have served as educators and activists on campus over the years regarding issues of homophobia and heterosexism. Those who dedicated many hours of their lives to ensuring the establishment of the Resource Center in the spring of 2007 include Rachel Chase ’05, Grant Hogan ’07, Gael Johns ’10, Aimee Martin ’07, Candyce Young-Fields ’07, Alice Watson ’07 and Rachel Zelinsky ’10.”

“Sure, I’ll teach 3 classes & start a center” -Jen Manion, Ph.D.

Past Student Groups


Spectrum: Gender and Sexuality Alliance- SOUL transformed to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ students. They worked toward ending homophobia and transphobia through education and advocacy. “We are dedicated to raising awareness about issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, changing discriminatory policies and attitudes and providing support for our members.”

Versum- This group was designed to support trans students at Conn and make the campus a safer environment for trans people. They did so by providing regular meetings for trans-identified or questioning people to express their feelings without fear. Versum also aimed to work with the school to get trans-friendly policies in place and do awareness focused events around campus.

QPOC (+): Queer People of Color- This currently inactive organization was designed as an educational support group on issues pertinent to queer people of color on campus and in the community.

“QPOC shall commit itself to deconstruct and analyze systems of injustice and seek tools to empower our community. Our group is open to people from all backgrounds who wish to explore how our campus is progressing on issues related to gender, sexuality, race, class, religious expression, adultism, and ableism.”

2010- The Campaign for Gender Identity Awareness met to discuss issues of gender identity and to undertake trans, intersex, and gender identity issues.

2014 logo

2010- The Queer Conn History Project was constructed in the Spring by two seniors: Lakshimi Kannan and Rachel Zelinsky. “Zelinksy wanted to document the history of LGBTQ student activism at Conn; Kannan wanted to explore the contradictions of multicultural and diversity initiatives on college campuses.” They both “worked tireless on behalf of the LGBTQ community their four years at Conn.” The project was installed into the center in May 2010.

“The activists in the senior class emphasized the history of their struggles to create LGBTQ community. They talked about the unwelcoming basement spaces they met in as underclassmen and the frequency of bias incidents in the past. They graduated in May 2007, soon after the opening of the center… Each subsequent year, the incoming class has less knowledge of and connection to the students who fought for years against a hostile student body and unsupportive administration.” -Rachel Zelinsky ’10, The Queer Conn History Project



2011-2013- Students began to advocate against gender-inclusive bathrooms in public buildings at Connecticut College. Jen Manion as and Dean Armando Bengochea compiled a list of bathrooms that could easily be converted into gender-inclusive bathrooms.

“There is no reason for Conn to not have gender variance bathrooms available in every building. Every time I see the signs “Men’s Room” and “Ladies’ Room,” I am personally offended and am made to feel uncomfortable as a queer person on this campus. I know others feel the same way.” -Carolyn Sunstrom ’14, The College Voice

2013- Director Jen Manion was honored as one of Top 25 Significant Queer Women by Velvetpark.

2013 Connecticut College was named one of the Top 25 LGBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities in the country. (Huffington Post)

2014– Connecticut College QPOC (Queer People of Color) students speak up in a video to talk about their experiences being a Queer Person of Color at home and on campus, and what being a Queer Person of Color means to them.

“We have worked very hard to make Connecticut College a place where LGBTQ students are supported, connected and critically engaged in all areas of campus life, from the classroom to the playing field to the residence halls.” -Jen Manion



Erin Duran

2015-2016- The Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion was officially created in the academic year. This division is now home to Gender and Sexuality Programs.

2016- Erin Duran was named the Director of Gender and Sexuality programs under the Division of Equity and Inclusion, replacing Jen Manion’s position.

2016- The resource center changed its name to the LGBTQIA Center to be more inclusive of all identities, including intersex and asexual.

2016- Shay Hicks ’18 and Gray McCaffrey ’19, began and lead a gender-inclusive bathroom initiative to bring gender-inclusive accessibility to academic, recreational and administrative buildings around campus.

2017- Connecticut College was the ranked most LGBTQ-friendly college in the state on Campus Pride Index (Bestcolleges.com)


2017- The Connecticut College LGBTQIA Center hosts the first annual Lavender Graduation in celebration of LGBTQIA graduating seniors. The event honors the contributions, achievements, and dedication of these students to their communities.

2018- Gender and Sexuality Programs supported the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at Connecticut College in honor of World AIDS day.

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