Queer students have a safe space at the SAGE Center
Ali Fernand – Features Editor
Full of flags and students engaged in conversation the SAGE center, which stands for Sexuality and Gender Equality is an open door for LGBTQ+ students on campus.
“This is a hang out space, we’ve got people playing video games, people doing homework” said SAGE Center’s graduate intern, Brandon Iovene.
There are couches, a table and even a TV in the room. Feinberg says that a lot of their friends are made at the SAGE center and events it holds. They also like to have the space to relax and do homework.
“I’ve made a lot of friends since coming here; it’s such a welcoming and supportive space,” said a frequent visitor of the SAGE center, Emily Feinberg, a sophomore.
The center is one of the many social justice organizations on campus. Though many students go to have fun, it exists to educate everyone on campus about LGBTQ+ identities. Iovene has called these “invisible identities” because despite visual cues, LGBTQ+ identities can never be assumed. There are resources on campus that the SAGE center helps students navigate.
“We have the preferred name change where you can change your name on all school documents without needing to legally change it,” said SAGE Center Ambassador Sara Lareau, a junior.
This is a service that exists at the university for trans students who would like to have their preferred name displayed on school documents. They can do this without needing to legally change their name, which is a long legal process.
The SAGE center also educates campus on violence that students face. This includes both verbal and physical violence.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, LGBTQ+ people are four times more likely to experience violence than those who are not LGBTQ+. Students also experience discrimination on campus from those who are in leadership positions.
“I’ve had friends who would order something on Amazon and use their preferred name. The RAs would tell them if they didn’t use the name that was in the system, they would throw it out,” Lareau said.
Lareau says that there are trainings in place to prevent RAs from discriminating against students. However, students still deal with disrespect from their peers and those in leadership positions.
“Students will often time experience microaggressions – in the classroom, between peers – it happens, it’s going to happen,” Iovene said.
Another resource that the SAGE center offers is a fully stocked closet. There are clothes and other items available for free for any student on campus.
The origins of the closet were to provide trans students with easy and free access to gender-affirming clothing. However, the closet is open to students of all identities.
“We’ve made it grow to where we have hundreds of items including clothes, accessories, pads, tampons, condoms readily available for students,” Iovene said.
These are goods that students use in their day-to-day life. Having free access to these items eases the worries that students may have about not being able to afford them. All the clothing is donated. Iovene said that most of the donations come from staff members at the university.
The SAGE center was first created by the late Cathy Christy, a past director of Violence Prevention Victim Support Center (VPAS). According to an email from Patrick Dilger, Christy passed away earlier this year just after retiring from her position at the university.
“Cathy was getting her master’s; she was doing her thesis. Her project then turned into the SAGE Center as part of her work with the Women and Gender studies program,” Iovene said.
Christy was a leader for victims and marginalized groups on campus. She was involved in the annual “Take Back the Night” event which is meant to raise awareness about sexual assault victims. Her work was for everyone of any identity, but her thesis for her master’s specifically included queer people at the university.
“She saw that there was a need for a space for queer people,” said Iovene.
Though her plan might not have been long term, her project led to the SAGE Center that exists today. They now provide many resources for queer folk: name change information, mental health advice, community.
“It’s not like your typical 9-5, it’s really about creating connections with students,” Iovene said.