For Scott Heath ’00, Nov. 8, 1999 was a joyous day of celebration. There were rainbows everywhere—especially in the bright balloon arch that marked the entrance to UC San Diego’s new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center. Empress XXVIII Tiffany Daniels of the Imperial Court de San Diego arrived in an ivory gown and sparkling tiara, joining Chancellor Robert Dynes in a special ceremony to inaugurate the long-awaited space.
Five years prior, Heath had arrived on campus an intimidated freshman, overcome by isolation. “Among its clusters of brutalist buildings and groves of eucalyptus trees, the campus could be as lonely as it was beautiful for those who didn’t feel they fit into the heteronormative culture of their residential colleges or academic departments,” he said.
At the time, there was no physical space dedicated to providing LGBT resources, just small student collectives like the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Association. Heath joined and began actively sharing information and building community, but he felt compelled to do more.
Heath became a student representative for the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBT Issues—a group of students, faculty and staff that soon became the driving force for a dedicated campus resource center. And yet, progress was slow.
The tide turned in October 1998, when the campus and nation collectively mourned the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in Wyoming. Over 300 students gathered on Library Walk, donning green armbands in honor of Shepard, to inspire awareness and prevent further violence.
Heath invited Joe Leventhal ’99, the student body president, to join in the demonstration. Leventhal supported Heath’s resolution to establish an LGBT Resource Center, which passed successfully with the agreement of the Associated Student Council. Backed by the student body and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBT Issues, the center was approved by Chancellor Dynes in 1999.
This year, the LGBT Resource Center celebrates 20 years of being the space for all students, staff and faculty and community members to explore issues relating to sexual and gender identities, practices and politics.
Learn more about the center at lgbt.ucsd.edu.