The new director for the Office of LGBTQIA+ Education and Engagement brings fresh passion and new ideas to Texas Tech.
I always knew I was different.
I grew up conservatively Christian in a Mexican American household with parents who performed traditional gender roles. My mom was a homemaker and my dad worked full time in the oil field.
I had no idea what being gay meant, but I heard from my family, from the pulpit and from people around me that it was a bad thing. For a long time, I did everything I could to blend in. I played football, was in 4-H and even worked on antique cars with my dad.
Later in life, I realized the people around me knew I was gay before I did. Kids in middle school would call me names, guys at work would use the word “queer” as an insult and many people would harass my friends for hanging out with me.
The name-calling and mistreatment caused me to fight harder to suppress my feelings and I asked God to make me “not gay.” It wasn't until I was on my own and attending college at Texas Tech University that I felt I could be myself.
College was when the LGBTQIA+ community became important to me because I was finally able to identify as part of it.
But it wasn't without struggle. I wish there was just one story from my past that drives me to make a difference. However, there are many. I've dealt with the male chauvinist surgeon in the operating room, the old-fashioned man in the board room, the priest or pastor expressing how much God hates me, the misogynistic person on the street harassing me and my friends and many other attacks and judgements. For a long time, I let these people control how I felt about myself and worked hard to prove my worth.
Over time and with age, I became confident in my own self-worth, learning that others don't control me or define who I am. But it took work to get there. It's because of that journey that I'm passionate about helping others. As I began looking for career opportunities, that was a large influence.
After college, I volunteered at Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Lubbock and built a program called Doorways which provided a safe place for high school and college students to come hang out. We listened to the struggles students brought to our attention and advocated, when possible, to make change. During those same years, I was working in sports medicine and medical sales but soon decided to pursue a change in career.
I had read a story about an elderly gay man in a nursing home who asked his friends to no longer visit for fear that he would be mistreated by the staff. Hearing of an older person who lived their life openly having to go back into the proverbial closet was depressing and made me determined to make a difference.
I went back to school to get my master's in healthcare administration and became a nursing home administrator. My thesis revolved around the notion of building community for LGBTQIA+ individuals in their later years and the importance of inclusive retirement communities.
Later, I became the executive director and chief executive officer (CEO) for various retirement communities; promoting the value of empowering staff, residents and families to treat others who were different with dignity, understanding and support. After moving to California, I partnered with advocacy programs such as Lavender Seniors to encourage retirement communities to become inclusive environments for the LGBTQIA+ community. Fostering change in senior living environments is still something I'm passionate about as I complete my doctorate in environmental design.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to return to my alma mater, Texas Tech. I'm thrilled to lean on my expertise and experience in building inclusive environments and apply that to the LGBTQIA+ community here. I've always been a proud Red Raider, so helping others feel part of the Texas Tech family is amazing.
When I came to terms with my sexual orientation during college, there were no services (that I was aware of) to help me in my journey of self-acceptance. And while I found support through a church, I didn't have much support on campus.
Allies of the LGBTQIA community worked on inclusive efforts, programs and events in the late 2000s, paving the way to establish an office to address the needs of LGBTQIA students. In 2017, the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement was established to serve the Texas Tech community through facilitation and leadership of programming and advocacy efforts aimed at strengthening the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) community.
I will continue our commitment to the mission of strengthening this community at Texas Tech and want students from the queer community to have a great college experience, graduate and go on to become successful at whatever they decide to do.
My fondest memories were formed at Texas Tech, so I look forward to fostering an environment where all Red Raiders feel welcomed.
Some of the ways our office does this will remain the same but we're also brainstorming new ways to serve the Texas Tech community.
- Programming and advocacy efforts that strengthen the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) community.
- Strengthen partnerships throughout the Lubbock community by advocating for policy change and acceptance.
- Our allyship program “IGNITE!” provides educational sessions every few weeks throughout the semester to share the lived experiences of LGBTQIA people while establishing a network of allies who support students, faculty and staff on campus.
- Our office will host signature campus programs such as:
- Pride Week during the last week of October in celebration of LGBTQIA+ History Month with multiple daily events scheduled.
- Transgender Awareness Week will begin on (Nov. 15) with Transgender Remembrance Day.
- World AIDS Day will be celebrated (Dec. 1).
- In the spring, our office will host the Big XII “LGBTQIA & Allies Summit,” a program that brings together participants from other Big XII schools and the state of Texas to provide educational programming and networking opportunities focused on LGBTQIA justice and advocacy efforts.
- For spring graduation, we host the Lavender Graduation to support our LGBTQIA and allied students.
- We are constantly looking for volunteers to grow our Affinity Spaces (first-year queer/trans space, queer reads, queer/trans students of color and sweet tea-ology interfaith), which focus on student life outside of class.