The University of Maryland’s LGBT Equity Center has changed its name to the LGBTQ+ Equity Center to be more inclusive and representative of all members of the community.
In a letter addressed to the university community last week, Shige Sakurai, the center’s acting director, described the change as representative of the center’s work for the LGBTQ+ community “to match the description we’ve been using colloquially.”
Due to technological limitations, not all references to the center will include its new name, but the name has been changed on the center’s Twitter and email.
The center has been using LGBTQ+ to describe its work and its communities for almost a decade, so the decision to change the name to include LGBTQ+ was a quick one, Sakurai said.
After coming back to the campus, there was “an opportunity to really match our name to what we’ve been saying about our communities for so many years,” Sakurai said.
For Sakurai, the change is especially important. They identify with the term “queer” and “the ‘+’ is a reminder that there are many identities that are important that are not in a brief acronym,” Sakurai wrote in the letter.
Julia Parker, a sophomore government and politics major, always felt supported by friends and family in high school after coming out as queer in eighth grade
When Parker arrived at this university, she wanted to be involved in the LGBTQ+ community.
During her freshman year, she was inducted into the Lavender Leadership Honor Society, an equity center-backed group that “celebrates and develops leadership for LGBTQ+ social justice,” according to the center’s website.
The addition of the “q” and the plus sign to the equity center’s name is a measure of being more inclusive, Parker said.
“[The LGBTQ+ community] is so all-encompassing that when you limit it to just LGBT, then you’re cutting off a lot of people who don’t really feel like they fall under any of those terms,” Parker said. “So for me it’s just really nice to have my identity feel included and to know that it’s included for all my classmates.”
Erin McClure, the diversity officer for the public health school, also said the center’s new name is more inclusive.
In the public health school, McClure raises awareness around identity-based needs and issues and works to create spaces for people to share their experiences, she said. McClure also works with other colleges and offices, such as the equity center, to create a fully inclusive environment in the public health school.
“It’s really important for me, in this role, to work closely with folks across campus, not just in our school, so that we can support one another,” she said.
Throughout all her work in public health, McClure emphasized the importance of people being honored as their full selves, and the center’s new name “is an effort to adjust to changes and be more inclusive in honoring those very specific identity pieces and the way that those are named,” she said.
Victoria Pannullo, the president of the Queer Leadership Accelerator, also said the name change is important.
“The LGBTQ+ community is a community that is evolving and changing and labels are changing,” the junior business management major said.
Plus, having university resources on the campus such as the equity center can be helpful for students in the LGBTQ+ community to feel more included and connected to one another, Pannullo said.
Pannullo described how it can be common for students to feel like the only queer people they know depends on the area they grew up in and who they interacted with.
So, having safe spaces for them “can be powerful and meaningful,” Pannullo said.