Department Spotlight: Center for LGBT Life

Duke's Center for LGBT Life works to create a safe environment for students, faculty and staff

Students hand out
Students hand out "Love=Love" T-shirts during Coming Out Day in October.

Department: The Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life Years at Duke: While some variation of the center has been around since 1994, it moved into its current location in the West Union in 2004.Who they are: The Center for LGBT Life provides education, advocacy, mentoring, academic engagement and space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, questioning, and straight-allied students, staff and faculty at Duke. Through its services, the Center encourages critical thinking about the intellectual, cultural, and political ramifications of sexual and gender difference at Duke and beyond. It seeks to challenge bias and intolerance in order to promote affirmation and support a more hospitable campus climate. The Center also serves and supports Duke alumni and the larger community.

What they're known for: As part of the annual celebration of Coming Out Day, an event that encourages positive support for LGBT community members, the Center distributes free T-shirts with the slogan, "Love=Love." Despite printing 1,500 shirts every year, they are regularly snatched up in less than 90 minutes. "Outside of Duke T-shirts sold by the Duke bookstores, it's the most popular T-shirt on campus and has also been spotted at the Today show, outside the White House, at the National Equality March and on CNN," said Janie Long, director of the Center for LGBT Life. "They've become a very important symbol on the Duke campus for equality." What they can do for you: Many events sponsored by the Center for LGBT Life are open for faculty and staff. Activities include guest speakers and Ally Training, which teaches employees to support LGBT community members. The Center also hosts a listserv for employees. Number of employees: Three Hidden department fact: The Center for LGBT Life acts as the main campus organizer of the annual North Carolina Pride Parade and Festival hosted on Duke's East Campus. Every year, thousands of people participate and watch the festival's parade along Main Street.  Significant achievement: "We now have hundreds of students who interact with us, as opposed to four students who interacted with us on a regular basis when I got here in 2006," Long said. "I know we're making a lot of positive changes in people's lives."Big goal: Long said she'd love to see a larger group of faculty and staff members become involved with the Center. "If we're going to have the most supportive campus possible for the LGBT community," she said, "it has to be driven by the faculty and staff who work here." How they make a difference: Members of the Center staff hold various trainings across the university and health system to teach about LGBT issues. "We work to help everyone understand the variety of students, employees, and even patients at Duke," Long said.Learn more about the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life on their website.