This past summer, Steven Thomas was chosen by Minnesota State Mankato as the Interim Director of the Jim Chalgren LGBT center following the resignation of the prior director David Gardner.
“I want people to know that I am a resource too, I have a history in mentoring and advising,” said Thomas. “Being there for others is a goal I always had for sure.”
As the new director, Thomas is already showing enthusiasm and passion for ensuring that all LGBTQ students are given a voice on campus.
“I want to see a wide range of diverse individuals being able to utilize the center,” said Thomas.
Thomas even had a few ideas for things that needed changing about the LGBT center.
“I want to do more new things as well, especially when it comes to revamping different things, especially when it comes to gender identity because right now if you think about the [name of] LGBT center it’s not really inclusive for all,” said Thomas. “So I want to put out there changing the name to make it more inclusive as well. I do know a lot of students who identify as agender or ace [asexual] and right now they are not represented in the name in the center at all.”
Given his experiences, Thomas understands the importance of representation on college campuses.
“I never knew I was going to be in higher education, to be honest until I really started seeing people and their passion for it,” said Thomas.
Of course, as many people would, Thomas has some reservations about his new role.
“Specifically when it comes to administrative work, that is a girl that I do not know,” said Thomas with a laugh. “But luckily the diversity and equity staff and faculty has been helpful and it really is actually a team effort I will say.”
One of the few things that will cause Thomas to show anger and disappointment is the topic of bigotry.
“I was already hearing issues about misgendering, and it’s just the third week of the semester,” said Thomas. “That is just something that just has to stop.”
“I’m not here to change your views, your beliefs, what you value. No honey you do your thing, you do what you want,” said Thomas. “But if you going to step out here on this campus, especially as a student, no. I feel when it comes to respect that’s just something you just have to do.”
The Jim Chalgren LGBT center is the second oldest campus LGBT center in the nation and has a rich history. The center was founded in 1977 following multiple incidents of discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, including a protest at a local bar over anti-queer discrimination that garnered national attention.
In 2004, Jessica Flatequel was the first full time director hired to run the LGBT center following a student protest led by Jess Crary.
Following the resignation of David Gardner, Thomas will be the third full-time director of the LGBT center.
“I don’t want one person to be in their room and just be like ‘I feel alone’ I don’t want that, no, because you are not alone,” said Thomas. “Honey, there are so many people out here that are raised to love you. I just want people to know that there is support here no matter who you are.”
Header Photo: Steven Thomas, the new LGBT Center Interim Director, has a goal of potentially renaming the center this school year. (Jeremy Redlien/The Reporter)
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