Year in Review 2019-2020 with the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life


The Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life is dedicated to transforming campus climate for University of Minnesota students, staff, faculty, alum and community members by developing and supporting more inclusive understandings of gender and sexuality through education, advocacy, outreach and support.


Our vision is to have a campus that is the national model for intersectional understandings of gender and sexuality, by continuously engaging with University of Minnesota students, staff, faculty, alum and the broader community.

2019-2020 Staff

  • Director: dr. Saby Labor
  • Assistant Director: Justin Toliver, M.A.
  • Program Coordinator: James Schwartz
  • Steven J. Schochet Endowment Associate: Qui Alexander
  • Social Media and Web Coordinator: Luis Mendoza
  • Student Outreach and Program Coordinator: Carly Duran
  • International Student Advocacy Intern: Andres Vargas
  • International Student Outreach Intern: Ronaldi Guerra Romo
  • Student Education and Tongues Untied Coordinator: Lyria Gansop
  • Student Education and Tongues Untied Coordinator: Jay Curtis

Message from the Director:

We had quite a year in the GSC! The Gender Equity and Access Policy was approved in December, and we began implementing this policy systemwide. One of this year’s highlights has been witnessing the level of engagement and collaborative partnerships we established and continue to maintain with remarkable student leaders.

In the spring, the GSC team met the challenges of the pandemic with innovative and community-centered strategies and programming. University leadership took action in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We know that more work needs to be done to fight systems of oppression that are built to marginalize, harm, and kill Black members of our community. The GSC maintains our commitment to disrupting racism, centering the voices and lived realities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and advocating for system changes that enhances the experiences of BIPOC University communities.

In the fall, the GSC launched a study of risk and prevention factors in partnership with the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct (PIPSM), in response to survey results regarding sexual harassment and sexual misconduct experiences of LGBTQ+ students. This study is still in progress.

As I reflect on this past year, I am humbled by the creativity, talents, and authenticity of the GSC staff team. As the leader of this small and mighty team, I’m tremendously proud and awed by all the hard work and brilliance they have put forth. They are the unsung heroes of the queer and trans brilliance at the University. Student leaders, University leaders, community leaders who have helped us bring about change this past year – we applaud you.

Thank you deeply and wholeheartedly, dr. Saby Labor, director

This message is an abridged version of the full letter from the director, which can be found at z.umn.edu/Directors-Review-Letter.

System Impact

Gender Equity & Access Policy

The Gender Equity and Access Policy was officially implemented at the University of Minnesota at a system-wide level on December 9, 2019. We know this to be a Nation leading and comprehensive policy in higher education giving specific and detailed protections on the basis of gender equity and access to all.

The policy consists of four main components:

Name, Gender Identity & Pronouns | Privacy | Data Collection | Programs, Activities, & Facilities

The work, commitment, dedication, and resistance it took to get this policy implemented at the University comes from a long legacy of LGBTQIA+ people at the U. We want to honor and uplift all of those who made this historic policy possible.

May 22, 2020 - rollout of expansive gender pronouns options in Canvas - shows up in 13 locations for students and instructors within Canvas LMS

Facilitator Training Program:

The Facilitator Training Program for Gender Equity and Access aims to provide university staff and faculty with the content and skills to facilitate knowledge-building in their respective department, unit, or college. This program was created out of the need to increase capacity for policy compliance and gender expansion education needed to inform our campus communities about the newly implemented Gender Equity and Access Policy. We are extremely grateful for the continued interest in this program from employees across our system campuses.

2 FTP Cohorts

37 Facilitators Trained

26+ Colleges, Units, and Departments Represented

Participants from System Campuses Engaged via Zoom

Education & Training

We offered an engaging collection of resources, education, and training opportunities this past year. These initiatives seek to provide our campus community with information about LGBTQIA+ identities & the multitude of intersections they exist within including race, class, disability, and other lived experiences.

Entities trained:

  • 100+ University Wide Academic Advisors
  • Humphrey School Masters of Public Affairs Mid-Career Students
  • International Graduate Teaching Assistants
  • Biology 103 undergraduate students
  • Gopher Athletics Department
  • UMN -TC Orientation Leaders
  • College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Academic Advisors
  • College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Career Services Staff
  • President Emerging Scholars Mentors
  • Boynton Health Advocates
  • Facilitator Training Program Cohort 1
  • Facilitator Training Program Cohort 2
  • Inclusive Practices - Name and Pronouns Open Sessions

Training Feedback Highlights:

I think it will be easier to have conversations about gender in everyday life now with a greater understanding.
I learned more in-depth information about being inclusive to all people. I have a greater understanding of how important it is to be aware of someone's pronouns and why it is important to keep practicing and show that extra degree of care to others in asking and working to address them properly.
It helped increase my overall awareness of how guidelines/policies/practices...even how we write content for websites or manuals is influenced by heteronormativity and cisnormativity.
Gave me a different way to look at the world without the rigid gender binary.
Programming Impact

We offer various programming that spans across the areas of education, outreach, advocacy, and support. This year, we revitalized our on-going programming and created new programs to meet the unique needs of our campus community. All our programming was planned with care and intentionality from our staff and collaborators.

Trans, GNC. Allies+ Discussion Group

In partnership with Student Counseling Services & Boynton Health

The Trans/GNC +Allies/Accomplices discussion series serves as a space for trans/gnc folks to talk about trans identity and build trans community on campus and in the Twin Cities. The space is also open for cisgender allies/accomplices to talk about accomplice work for trans/gnc communities. These are two separate spaces held at every meeting. Both groups talk through a new topic each meeting focused on collective liberation and support for trans/gnc folks.

15 students served this semester

This semester we collaborated with Alex Montes of Boynton Mental Health. Alex hosted and facilitated the Cis, Ally/Accomplice space with a lesson plan

LGBTQIA+ Student Leadership Retreat

The annual LGBTQIA+ Student Leadership Retreat was hosted at Camp One Heartland in Willow River, Minnesota on October 18th-20th, 2019. There were 25 students that attended (23 undergrad, 2 graduate) and 8 facilitators including the three professional GSC staff.

Retreat Workshop Topics:

  • 5 Levels of Exemplary Leadership
  • Advocacy and Activism Toolbox
  • Community & Self-Care
  • Healing as Necessary Work
  • The History & Impact of Ballroom Culture


This retreat made such a difference for my mental and emotional health and I hope I can come again next year!
I think the more cohesive workshop themes of healing and organizing were really beneficial! Last year’s workshops were great as well, but these followed a stronger theme and I think that really brought the weekend together.

Andrea Jenkins Lecture Series

October 22nd in the Student Union Theater

The Andrea Jenkins Lecture series honors and celebrates University alumna and City Council Member Andrea Jenkins while centering the voices of queer and trans people of color. This year's lecture centered on "The Black Trans Prayer Book: A Conversation Through Poems on Decriminalizing the Black Trans Spirit", with spoken word performances from Andrea Jenkins, J Mase III, and Lady Dane.

142 attended the lecture

110 attended the dinner & reception


Hearing the voices of trans/black voices is a call to greater humility & solidarity in the queer community.
Centering Black trans folks to guide us in learning and healing and celebrating was invaluable.
The importance of supporting queer artists monetarily and how to contextualize our experience at a PWI.

Virtual Engagement

The purpose of the Virtual Engagement series was to create opportunities for community engagement with queer and trans folks while practicing safe public health. We know community is how we have and will survive. Amid the transition to remote operation, the GSC team hosted online activities, discussions, and hang-outs to bring more community into all of our lives.

Participants were presented with a framework that deeply encouraged practicing precautionary health measures, extending radical kindness to others, and the importance, necessity, and power of community.

28+ Sessions from March 19th - May 20th

Series Topic Examples:

  • The Power of Braindumping
  • International Student Hangout
  • Talk with Queer Mentors
  • QT Grad Students Hangout

The Queer Pen Pal Project

The Emerging Connections: Queer Pen Pal Project was born out of the desire and need to build Queer community and connection during a time of social distancing. Queer history has shown us that community is one of the ways we survive during challenging or uncertain times. LGBTQ+ resource centers across the Nation came together to connect our LGBTQIA+ students with one another. Our hope was that relationships formed through this program helped provide a sense of connection, belonging, and solidarity to our LGBTQIA+ students across state and institutional lines.

Participating Institutions:

  • Augsburg University
  • Central Michigan University
  • University of Minnesota - Duluth
  • University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
  • University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • University of Texas at Austin

193 participants from 6 institutions

Queer & Trans Kickoff Events

The annual Queer and Trans Kickoffs this year were held on the Minneapolis campus on September 12th and the St. Paul campus on September 19th. These Kickoff events raise awareness of essential LGBTQ+ resources and services on campus for students.

~175 Students Attended

11 campus partners participated

Inaugural kickoff on St. Paul Campus

This was the first year we hosted an additional kickoff on the St. Paul Campus. We received positive feedback on this for intentionality, connection, and outreach. We are committed to doing our best to make both our campuses feel connected and prioritized .

Virtual Lavender Celebration

Lavender Celebration is an annual event that recognizes the achievements of graduating Queer and Trans students and honors faculty, staff, community members and students who have advanced inclusion, support and education around LGBTQIA identities. It is an event where LGBTQIA+ students of all identities are welcome to share their hopes and dreams with one another and be recognized by the institution for their leadership and achievements. This year, we adapted to the circumstance and hosted the celebration over Zoom!

First Ever Virtual Implementation

Honored and celebrated the achievements of 10 graduates

Created space for families to share affirmations and words of encouragement to their loved ones at the ceremony

Compiled heartwarming messages from across the campus community

Marketing & Communications

We engage with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members across a variety of platforms, including digitally and in-person. This year we strove to reach our students in unique ways that are especially meaningful and salient to them.


A Positive Messaging Campaign

#QueerIs highlights, honors, and celebrates the infinite galaxy of possibilities and experiences intertwined within Queer and Trans identities. The purpose of this campaign was to spread positive and affirming messages about Queer and Trans identities around the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campuses.

To transparently claim that being Queer is a powerful, unique, and magical experience that many of our students, faculty, staff, and community members navigate every day of their lives. We see you. We value you. We support you.

Distributed 375 #QueerIs Posters to a diverse group of students, staff, and faculty

Partnered with departments across the campus community, including the law school and Gopher Athletics Women’s Basketball on Pride Night

Our community says:

Queer is hope for the future.
Queer is what you make it.
Queer is a gift.
Queer is power.
uhh will make a square collage to add hmmm.

Instagram Growth

Set focus on this platform to increase direct engagement with undergraduate and graduate students

518 Followers (+144 Spring 2020 semester)

Average reach per post: 208

Utilized Instagram Live for Virtual Engagement Series

Incorporated Instagram engagement in #QueerIs Campaign

Social Media and Newsletter


2,504 Subscribers

Average of 800 opens

Released Bi-Weekly by Student Staff




974 highest reach this year

Campus Partners

Collaboration is How We Succeed

At an institution as large as the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, it is crucial that the GSC actively participates in building and collaborating with our colleagues across our campuses. Collaboration must be at the core of work so we may optimize our reach to community in hopes of making our large campus feel connected. LGBTQIA+ people span every classroom, department, college, and office on our campus. Knowing this to be true, there is a lot of work that has and needs to be done. We are committed to this aspect of our work because it is our responsibility to break down silos and cultivate access and safety for all LGBTQ people at the U.

Snapshot of Collaborative Initiatives:

  • Engaged with the Office of Admissions in multiple short and long-term LGBTQ initiatives including Golden Evening with Admitted African American Students and the OutFront MN Virtual Opportunities Fair
  • Supported academic programming as sponsors in Chicano/Latino Studies and Gender Women and Sexuality Studies
  • Cultivated ongoing partnership channels of communication with: Queer Student Cultural Center, Lavender House, Gopher Athletics, Boynton Health, Trans Advisory Action Team, and the Law School
  • GSC Director, dr. Saby Labor, Co-chaired LGBTQ-inclusion committees with the Law School and Boynton Health
  • Supported Housing and Residential Life in increasing size of Lavender House capacity from 33 students last year to ~45 students
  • Offered education about gender identity/expression, names, and pronouns to 100+ Office of Equity and Diversity colleagues
  • Collaborated with Veterans Services on their Veterans Identity Campaign to highlight LGBTQ veterans and service members
  • Consulted with the Learning Abroad Center to update materials and strategies for faculty program leads and attended Annual Update Meeting
Academic Impact

We are Driven to Discover! Supporting the academic success of our students must be at the core of our work. We've brought in students, professors, and professionals from various UMN departments and nationally to be in community and share their brilliant work.

Queer & Trans Scholar(Ship) Convening

On February 14th, we hosted the Queer and Trans Scholar(ship) Convening. The inaugural event took place in the Union, with over 75 people RSVP’s and about 50 people in attendance. A space and opportunity to meet, connect and build community with Queer and Trans graduate/professional students and faculty from across the University of Minnesota. The event specifically focused on graduate students and welcomed faculty, staff and undergraduate students specifically interested in graduate school/research. Our hope was for the convening to not be just about scholarship, but also about what it means to be a queer/trans scholar.

  • Lunch and keynote "Beyond Resilience: Queer Worldmaking in Academe” by Dr. Benny LeMaster, Assistant Professor of Critical/Cultural Communication Studies and Performance at Arizona State University
  • Interdisciplinary Scholarship Discussion where participants got to talk to each other about their research interests across discipline
  • “Self and Collective Care for Academics” workshop framed on Dr. LeMaster keynote "love, collaboration and art"
  • Affinity Group Discussions

Funding Education of LGBTQIA+ People:

This year we awarded awarded $30,000 to LGBTQ graduate students and 1 instructor through the Steven J. Schochet Endowment
We employed 6 undergraduate students through work study, grants, and the GSC budget

Concluding Summary from the Assistant Director

It has been a pleasure to serve as the Assistant Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life during the 2019-2020 academic year. It was my first year in the position and I hit the ground running. In one year, we were able to establish a team dynamic centered on accountability, integrity, community care, and intentionality all for the experience of our Queer and Trans University Community.

When I reflect on all of the victories, challenges, and moments of growth we welcomed this year, three salient phrases summarize the heart of our work:

Creating for and with Community

Our team deeply believes in the strength of community. Our responsibility as the University's LGBTQIA+ Center is to support, advocate, and better the climate for Queer and Trans people on our campuses and, by extension, our collective society. We understand that this happens by working directly for and with our diverse communities. We will always prioritize and center the voices and experiences our Queer and Trans students, staff, faculty, and community members.

Gradual Transformation

With the Gender Equity & Access Policy implementation, we were reminded that change doesn’t happen overnight. It is a continuous process that requires intentional solidarity, powerful resilience, and relentless commitment from everyone involved. One person or office does not make change happen. It is the contributions of our predecessors, student voices, community, and us. We will continue to strive for a campus climate where all people feel safe and access to a positive educational journey.


As the world around us changed, so did we. We must always be adaptable, but March 2020 brought a new depth of meaning to this word. We knew it was our responsibility to continue building meaningful ways of connection during COVID-19. We tapped into our commitment to innovation and creativity to show up for our communities in new yet familiar ways. As we enter a new academic year, we remain steadfast to this commitment.

After our first year as a team, we have a powerful shared vision that we are excited to continue building in 2020-2021. Thank you to everyone who engaged with our work and the GSC this year. We cannot do this work alone. We look forward to continuing to work hand in hand next year.

Created By
Justin Toliver & Luis Mendoza


Created with images by Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • Belinda Fewings - "A colourful and welcoming sign that would make the majority of us feel welcome. Colourful and creative and an improvement on a plain wall." • Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • Sharon McCutcheon - "Non Binary Letters for gender identity." • Kyle - "Pride makeup" • Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • Denin Lawley - "untitled image" • Delia Giandeini - "July 7th 2019, pride parade day in Geneva." • Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • Sharon McCutcheon - "Transgender flag celebrating LGBTQ Pride for June, 2019." • Chris Johnson - "Show your pride" • Denin Lawley - "untitled image" • Sharon McCutcheon - "I am trying to keep my creativity flowing while on quarantine, it can be tough. I spent some time shaving colored chalk with a plastic serrated butter knife. The chalk dust was collected on a baking sheet and placed on top of my stove, using the kitchen window for natural light." • Allie - "untitled image" • Ra Dragon - "untitled image" • Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • lalo Hernandez - "Instagram Prisma" • Paweł Czerwiński - "I was on my way back home after work. I was thinking about a way to splash a bunch of different colors in the water at the same time with one hand and the other operating the trigger or the remote. And I constructed this primitive multi-color device :)" • Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • Cecilie Johnsen - "Oslo Pride" • Ricardo Gomez Angel - "Colored facade" • Markus Spiske - "untitled image"