Over the last few years, the Gender and Sexuality Center at Brandeis has hired new staff and student leaders, created new programs for students and is working towards establishing a strong program with a multitude of opportunities and resources for students. In honor of LGBTQIA+ Month, the Justice spoke with the new inaugural director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, Julian Cancino, as well as two student Pride Reps, Tanner Eustace ’24 and Kyla-Yen Giffin ’23. 

In an email interview with the Justice, the Gender and Sexuality Center defined their mission as working “to build a diverse and inclusive institution for women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual (LGBTQA+) faculty, staff, and students.”

A goal of the Center is to foster and build a strong community of students. To achieve this, they run two separate, compensated educational opportunities: the Pride Reps Program for undergraduate students and the Student Worker Program for graduate students.

Pride Reps gather in a small student cohort to learn, as well as assist, in developing and implementing opportunities for fellow undergraduates. The Student Workers Program provides graduate students an opportunity to pursue an innovative project of their choosing each semester. 

Giffin, a GSC Pride Rep, spoke about how they and the other Pride Reps spend time studying and learning about different topics surrounding queerness, such as “sex and dating, coming out, intersectionality, and working together to figure out how to use this information to positively impact the queer community at Brandeis and beyond.” They further expressed the role of the GSC on campus, commenting that “this really attests to the commitment and care that the GSC puts into the students in our community ... I’m so proud and grateful to be a part of this mission.”

The Center works with campus partners, stating that they engage in “direct advocacy to promote inclusive policies at the institutional level,” and holds training and educational sessions for faculty and staff to build inclusive classrooms and campus communities. Additionally, the Center deeply cares about aiding students in affirming their identities and staying healthy. The Brandeis Counseling Center’s Community therapy program provides free, confidential mental health services from a certified therapist who specializes in working with LGBTQIA+ communities. These services are available in person at the Mailman House. 

Eustace, another GSC Pride Rep, explained that he works to “advocate for the Brandeis community, create a safe atmosphere where people can be authentic” and also simply talk with each other: “my fellow Pride Reps… inspire me with their personal stories and broaden my mind to struggles beyond my own… Simply talking about issues can be the most important part in paving the way towards social justice.” Eustace said, “it feels really good to know that my input can make a difference in the center.”

Cancino, inaugural director of the Center, provided a brief history of LGBTQIA+ activism and student groups on campus. In 1975, students formed the Brandeis Gay Advocates, the first LGBTQIA+ centered student group on Brandeis’ campus. In the following decades, the first AIDS Awareness Week, Homophobic Awareness Week and Coming Out Week were all implemented at Brandeis. 

There have been multiple student rallies and campaigns surrounding LGBTQIA+ issues on Brandeis’ campus. In 1998, Triskelion’s office (now the GSC) was vandalized and over 700 students, faculty and staff rallied in support of the LGBTQIA+ community at Brandeis. There was a rally in support of an out lesbian Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies professor, a campaign for gender neutral bathrooms and mock weddings to protect the Defend Marriage Act. In 2012, the Senate voted unanimously for funds for a new Gender and Sexuality Center, which officially opened in 2014, and hired Cancino in 2020 to serve as inaugural director of the Center.  

The Gender and Sexuality Center is located in the Usdan Student Center, on the ground floor to the right of the Levin Ballroom. The Center is open Monday through Friday, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. In the office you can also find the Rainbow Room, a place to study, nap or hang out with friends, which is also available to reserve for club meetings or other events. There is also a lending library of many genres of LGBTQIA+ affirming books, including Young Adult fiction, academic publications, children’s books, comic books, romance novels and much more. 

The Center is working on planning events for more students to get involved, which can find out more about from their newsletter or their Instagram, @brandeis_gsc. For any questions, ideas, reservation inquiries and more, the Center’s email address is gsc@brandeis.edu.