By Mimi Hoang, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist, Student Psychological Services
Staff Co-Lead, LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Network
Ten years ago I started working at LMU in fall 2011 as a staff psychologist at Student Psychological Services (SPS). I was excited to begin a new position providing mental health services to LMU students, but also to meet new faculty and staff colleagues who hopefully could become campus partners and friends. Being that I am an out bisexual Asian American psychologist and advocate with a passion for all things related to gender, sexuality, race, and culture, I looked into the employee affiliate groups soon after I started my job and joined the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Network (AKA The Network) and the Asian American and Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association (AAPIFSA), and immediately found wonderful communities reflecting my queer and POC identities.
Before I elaborate on the more obvious social offerings of The Network, I want to share some of the history of our organization as well as the LGBTQ-related cultural context of how we originated on the LMU campus because, in the vein of cultural awareness and humility, it is important to know your history, even if there are surprising or challenging parts that might make one feel uncomfortable. Though there are currently multiple thriving LGBTQ groups and programs on campus, it hasn’t always been this way, and it hasn’t always been a smooth road. As we all know, LMU is a university founded on the Jesuit tradition and thus there are many aspects of our university that reflect more traditional Catholic teachings while also following the Jesuit pursuit of social justice. Accordingly, this has created a unique and complex backdrop for LGBTQ inclusion and organizing for students, staff, and faculty at LMU.
The first LGBTQ student group, originally called the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), renamed the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, and now called Somewhere Under the Rainbow (SUR), was created in the 1980s but had an uphill battle to be recognized as a registered student organization. In 2006, Dr. Jeffrey Schnell, an SPS staff psychologist, started an LGBTQ support group called The Circle after obtaining approval from senior administration. The longevity of The Circle helped build critical mass for students to grow SUR. In 2006, the Intercultural Advisory Committee voted to formally recognize an Ethnic Minority and LGBTQ Faculty Staff Network at LMU to discuss needs for POC and LGBTQ faculty and staff, and through this umbrella network, the Faculty and Staff Gay-Straight Network was founded in 2008 by Rich Rocheleau and Lily Khadjavi.
With my recommendation to include the ‘B’ in LGBT, the group became renamed the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Network. After deliberate consideration and following the example of other Catholic universities who had opened LGBT student resource programs, the LMU LGBT Student Services office (LGBTSS) was opened in 2010 (Balisy, 2010), though with a focus on student support and not activism. Currently there are multiple student organizations (e.g., Transcendence, Queer Film Club, CRIME) and LGBTSS hosts multiple student discussion groups (e.g., Queer Black Space, QTPOC Space), SPS offers multiple LGBTQ support groups (The Circle, OUTGrads), and Recovery at LMU has a LGBTQ recovery group (Queer AF – Alcohol Free). Much of this history is not documented but recounted by long-time faculty and staff.
The Network is created by and for faculty and staff and therefore is able to create its own mission and activities. Since its inception, its mission has been to improve the campus climate through fellowship, education, and social justice and to promote active collaboration among LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students. The Network has hosted educational presentations by nationally known leaders and scholars on topics such as LGBTQ terminology, bi+ community history, and transgender youth. We have organized social events such as potlucks and gatherings in West Hollywood. We have also participated in social justice-related programs such as co-hosting the play “8” based on the Prop 8 trial in 2012 (O’Keeffe, 2012) and participating in the Silent Protest in 2016 after a series of anti-LGBT bias incidents rocked the campus (Chudzinkski, 2016). The Network also co-sponsored annual holiday gatherings with SUR so students can meet and connect with out LGBTQ faculty and staff.
The Network’s past leadership on the faculty side has included Robert Doyle and Leon Wiebers and on the staff side has included Fred Puza and Trevor Wiseman. Anthony Bodlovic, assistant professor and program director of Marital and Family Therapy, had been leading The Network for a few years, and I had been an active member until I volunteered to become the staff co-lead in fall 2020. Because it was the height of the pandemic, I was working from home and furloughed, Prides had been canceled, and George Floyd had just been murdered, and I just felt like I had to do something. Because, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This past academic year has been a growing year for The Network, as Anthony and I, with the support of Lalo Moreno, director of LGBTSS, have created more structure and expanded the leadership team, all within an anti-racist and decolonizing framework. We built a council of faculty and staff to share in the responsibilities: Marc Cooper, Brandon Holmes, Veronica Manz, and Alexis Weiss. We hosted an event before the U.S. presidential election called “Celebrating Queerstory: Intersections of LGBTQ+ History, #BLM, and the November Ballot.” We hosted a community listening session, a “Rainbow Hour” series, and an end-of-the-year gathering with games and prizes, all virtually. We created an Instagram account and issued a public statement in alignment with the #StopAAPIHate movement in March. The Council has also been developing bylaws to solidify goals, roles, and activities for years to come, and Anthony and I have attended DEI meetings to collaborate with LMU’s anti-racism initiatives.
So, we have hopes that The Network will continue to survive and thrive and become a vibrant community, a chosen work family, if you will, for faculty and staff who identify anywhere on the rainbow spectrum who want to make friends, educate themselves, and/or become more actively involved in improving our campus climate.
- Visit LMU’s Pride Month hub
- Help us showcase the artistic expressions of the LGBTQ+ community and allies. We invite LMU students, faculty, staff, and alumni to submit an artistic work to showcase on our Pride Month hub. Submit any original and creative piece that represents the beauty, strength, diversity, and PRIDE for LGBTQ+ identities! We encourage variety, including Visual Art, Written Works, Musical contributions, and Video. Complete this form and upload your artwork to share your pride with LMU.
- Use your voice and experiences to connect with other staff and faculty members of LMU, in the next cohort of Cultural Consciousness Conversations. Share the page with your colleagues and sign up for a year of dynamic engagement with individuals from different backgrounds. As Patrick Furlong of the Center for Service and Action says, “[Each] of us as staff and faculty members want to be positioned to support the students we work with in any way we can. I think one way we do that is engage in conversations with our colleagues about culture, ours and those around us, so we can learn to be more culturally responsive leaders.”
- Contribute to In Six Words for LGBTQ+ Pride – We will feature more six-word stories throughout the year, so use your words and join the conversation.
This week, we spotlight a story from Anthony Bodlovic, program director and assistant professor in the Marital and Family Therapy Program, and faculty co-lead for the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Network
“Queer in spaces now queering spaces.”
We appreciate Anthony, Mimi, and the LGTBQ Faculty and Staff Network councilmembers for an amazing program and a legacy that will continue to reach through LMU’s history.