1. Welcome home
  2. A rocky start
  3. Creating a warm space
  4. Keeper of the house
  5. Father figure
  6. Living authentically
  7. A new generation
  8. Working through transition

Safe haven

IU's GLBT Student Support Services Office celebrates 20 years

Safe haven
IU's GLBT Student Support Services Office celebrates 20 years
Welcome home

It sits nestled among other cozy houses on the western edge of campus, a welcoming place for those who may not be welcome in their own homes.

It remembers a time when professors and students hid their sexuality from a disapproving society.

It remembers a time when emerging anti-discriminatory policies began to recognize them.

And it remembers a time when its walls housed students fighting to see gay marriage recognized in Indiana.

This year, IU’s GLBT Student Support Services Office celebrates 20 years of standing as a beacon for those fighting for acceptance.

“For me the office has really served as a home away from home,” said student Xander Harty. “It’s kind of this place where I can be sure that there will be acceptance no matter what. No matter what problem I have or what issue comes up I can always come here and people will be very supportive and willing to listen and willing to help.”

A rocky start

It was 1989 when Pam Freeman, assistant dean of students at the time and director of the office of student ethics, was tasked with meeting with two gay students who wanted an administrative link to discuss services for GLB students on campus.

“They weren’t sure they could be out,” Freeman recalled of those early meetings. “They weren’t sure they could be open about who they really were with faculty, with staff and with other students. They were afraid of discrimination.”

Charlie Colpaert was one of those students. While Bloomington has always been known as more accepting than other communities throughout the state, the late 1980s to the early 1990s wasn’t a time someone like Colpaert could feel comfortable walking down the street holding his boyfriend’s hand.

“If you were openly gay at that time, it was the fear your family would disown you,” he said. “For many years, that’s what kept me from talking to my parents about it. No child wants to be told they are no longer welcome in their family home.

"It was a pretty significant thing to come out. When I would tell someone I was gay, sometimes it would be a production to get it out because you don’t know how people are going to take it.” 

But Colpaert, alongside members of OUT, a GLBT student support group, pushed through his own fears in an effort to make sure the GLB community had a voice on campus. The group fought for sexual orientation to be included in the university’s anti-discriminatory policies, started Pride Week on campus and created the Miss Gay IU Pageant.

Although Colpaert felt good about the progress he and his group were able to make, he never imagined their efforts would eventually lead to an office designated for gay students.

“We heard there was talk going around the IU Student Association for a push for gay, lesbian student services,” he said. “At the time it was unthinkable. It was not something we would have fathomed. We just wanted someone we could talk to at the university.”

But those early meetings with Freeman led to the formation of the GLB anti-harassment team that compiled statistics over a three-year period on antigay harassment on campus. According to its findings, the number of cases reported increased by 35 percent each year.

The Board of Aeons, an academic group that advises the president on student concerns, had earlier issued a report calling for the creation of a GLB center. Both the student body senate and the IU Residence Halls Association also passed resolutions supporting such a center.

Then in April 1994, Kenneth Gros Louis, then-IU vice president and IU Bloomington chancellor, approved a $50,000 appropriation for a GLB office. (The T for “transgender” was added to the office’s name in the late 1990s.)

But when some politicians, particularly State Rep. Woody Burton got word of the center, a campaign was started to take hostage some of IU’s funding if the center were to open.

“We all have the right to live as we wish, however, when the promotion of special interest groups is funded with taxpayers’ dollars, it is time to speak out,” Burton wrote in a letter dated Sept. 9, 1994. “When these special interest groups take on a role that introduces and encourages their controversial activities to vulnerable citizens, we need to consider all the negative ramifications that may result.”

Burton also argued that, unlike racial minorities such as African Americans or Latinos, homosexuals could hide their sexual status.

In addition to Burton, some community members, alumni and student groups such as the Young Americans for Freedom and the IU College Republicans also spoke out against the office.

The opposition was particularly passionate -- and in some cases simply hateful -- a fact Gros Louis believed helped open the eyes of many faculty and students on campus.

“It’s really hard in 2014 to imagine what being gay was like prior to even 10 years ago,” he said. “It was very, very difficult. That’s why the center played such an important role not only for the students, but educating the entire campus about something that not many people on campus had thought much about.”

To avoid further controversy, then-IU President Myles Brand decided to fund the office privately, which ended Burton’s threats of withholding university funding. The office was placed under the umbrella of the newly named Office of Student Ethics and Anti-Harassment Programs and opened its door in 1994.

While the strong opposition of people like Burton made for splashy headlines, both Gros Louis and Freeman said there was actually more support for the center than opposition on campus.

“I had talked to enough student leaders and other student organizations that were very supportive of the idea,” Gros Louis said. “Probably because they knew someone who had been harassed or literally driven out of school because they had declared themselves as gay.”

Creating a warm space

It was 8 a.m. Nov. 21, 1994, when Doug Bauder, newly named coordinator of the GLB Student Support Services Office, entered his new workspace, feeling both excited and anxious.

At the time, the office was just a single room housed in the back of the Office of Student Ethics and Anti-Harassment Programs, and offices related to alcohol and drug use were also housed in the building.

There were boxes everywhere. We had a telephone and a desk, that was about it,” Bauder said. “I determined I would just be there for anybody who came in or called. I was all alone. There was no secretary. There were people in the rest of the building here and, while I felt supported and welcomed by them, I was basically on my own.”

Although the office braced for a group of protestors with bullhorns, the opening would prove anticlimactic. A student came in to talk, and a librarian at Wells Library came bearing a bouquet of flowers.

“I was really excited,” Bauder said of that day. “I felt such a sense of confidence because there was so much support.”

That support has continued, he said, as the office eventually took over the entire house in 2011 and, most recently, was placed under the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs. Now with front offices filled with interns and student workers, rooms for counseling services and a full library, the office space feels like an actual center.

But as it has grown, the office has still maintained a feeling of warmth and coziness, something Bauder and his staff have worked hard to create.

“From the early days we were mindful that some students weren’t even comfortable walking in the front door,” he said. “We still get folks who come by the side door … but once they’re here, they tell us it really feels like home. The importance of that for me is I’m mindful that there are some students who are not welcome in their own homes. We work hard at making sure we put students at ease and that’s important.”

Student Shane O'Bannon spends much of his time in the office's library.

For Shane O’Bannon, a freshman studying education, the office has become a second home.

O’Bannon entered IU in June and, coming from the small town of Springville, Ind., wasn’t sure how he would adjust to campus life.

“I’ve always been a homebody,” he said. “I usually wouldn’t go out; I would do stuff with Mom and Dad at the house. I was in this little box, but then once I came here I was out of that box and I thought ‘What do I do? My parents aren’t here, where should I go, where can I make my new home?'”

When he’s not in class, the 19-year-old can be found at the GLBT office. His shoes stowed next to his backpack, O’Bannon typically sits at a computer in the front office or munches on M & M's as he checks out the books and movies in the office's library.

Although he came out in middle school with the support of his close friends, O’Bannon said his journey as a young gay man has not been without struggle.

When he tried to start a gay/straight alliance at his school, he was told it would be better to simply make it a diversity club. His family has been receptive, but his sexual identity is still not something his father is comfortable speaking about.

So walking into IU's GLBT office for the first time was definitely a welcomed change.

“As I came in I just felt myself looking around and I felt kind of weird coming here, almost apprehensive,” he said. “I felt like someone would say something, like I would get weird looks. I felt I was taking some kind of step. 'Am I allowed to be open like this, to go into a GLBT office?'”

The office’s homey atmosphere and Bauder's support have not only provided O’Bannon a space he feels comfortable in, but has also allowed him to flourish. He’s since joined other groups such as Men Like Us and the Quarryland Men’s Chorus.

“I was the minority at my school. I felt alone,” he said. “I had supportive friends and there wasn’t any bullying, but I just felt alone. I wanted someone else to talk to that was on the same level as me. Not just support but real understanding. Then I came here; when I got involved in choir and Men Like Us, it was like, 'This is great, I’m not alone, and I’ve got these other people around me.' I’m not on an island anymore. There’s this whole community.”

Keeper of the house

Heading down Seventh Street in the early morning light, Bauder is on a mission.

As he parks his bike alongside the brown, brick building where he’s worked for the past two decades, Bauder is aware of the impact he's made on hundreds of students lives throughout the years -- and the work that still lies ahead.

“I try not to take it for granted,” he said. “I wake up almost every morning thinking this is such a wonderful place to be. For me, it’s a calling. It’s absolutely what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m more convinced of that than ever.”

Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, Bauder was raised in a religious, yet inclusive, family. But America in the 1950s was a time when homosexuality was so completely taboo it was thought of as a mental disorder.

“I knew something was going on, but I was still in denial,” he said. “I wanted to believe the fact that I was a late bloomer or whatever because that was kind of what I was hearing from society. The psychological world was still pretty antigay. I wasn’t doing a lot of studying about this issue but what I knew was fairly negative. Plus what I knew was all related to stereotypes and I didn’t fit any of those.”

Bauder eventually moved to Wisconsin and worked as both an ordained minister and as administrative coordinator of a city-funded social service agency for the GLBT community. He ended up marrying and having two children. In his early 30s, he came out as a gay man to his wife, his church and, in time, his young children.

“I was petrified of coming out to my kids when they were real little,” he said. “There was something about the rightness of being honest that I probably learned from my folks, though, and from my faith tradition that pretty much welcomed everybody. It seems sort of simple now, but it was not without tears and struggles and tough years.”

Bauder eventually met his current partner, a professor at IU, and together they moved to Bloomington. When the position for coordinator of a new GLB Student Support Services Office came open, Bauder knew he had something to contribute.

“I think by the time I got here I absolutely knew who I was and what I wanted to do,” he said. “I never thought I’d be at it 20 years. I remember them saying we’d like someone to be here for a couple of years to get this up and running and I said, ‘I can promise that.’ And here I am, still having fun.”

Whether it’s helping students prepare to come out to their parents or providing resources for transgender students in transition, Bauder has been a pillar to hundreds of students looking for someone to shed light on a sometimes dark time.

“I’m proud of students who love themselves,” he said. “I ask students who are going to be teachers and who are looking for ways to create that safe space: ‘Think back to your elementary school days. Who was your favorite teacher?’ I bet it wasn’t someone who just had a passion for a subject that you were interested in. I bet it was someone who just made you feel valued.

“Maybe your glasses were too thick or you were a minority race or you came from a different religion or part of town. Whatever it was, you were different, and it didn’t matter at all to this teacher.

"Think about that very simple thing. That's what I want us to do here: to create a sense of confidence within students and maybe an environment on the campus where we can affect policies or programs where people can thrive, where people can learn and then contribute something of themselves in a more peaceful, less hateful environment.”

Father figure

Cindy Stone, the first openly gay trustee to serve IU, said it’s hard to imagine the center without Bauder and to fully comprehend all of the lives the longtime coordinator has impacted.

“Many of us count our blessings every day that he has been here for 20 years and provided the vision, the leadership, the wherewithal to truly put the welcome mat at the front door for everybody,” she said. “People who are doing work as our allies to the GLBT community, kids who are inquiring, kids who are in crisis saying ‘I just came out to my parents and they are threatening to pull my tuition.’ He has been the absolute pillar, the rock for so many people to literally get the support that they need.” 

For students like O’Bannon, Bauder serves as a guide not only to all things IU, but to a life the freshman is still navigating after leaving his small-town home.

“He’s caring, caring beyond belief, and he’s uplifting, encouraging,” O’Bannon said. “When I come here and I see Doug, it’s almost like he’s my second dad. There’s just warmth. He radiates happiness and you are welcome here, you can talk to him about things.” 

As if on cue, Bauder pops his head into the library and informs O’Bannon there are granola bars in his office if he gets hungry.

That commitment to students -- that willingness to devote himself to helping young people navigate through life -- has been there from the beginning.

“I think Doug in many ways has become the center, and in many ways the center is reflected through Doug,” IU alumnus Shane Windmeyer said. “It’s almost as if it’s the same institution; that’s how inseparable they are in my mind. He’s done such an amazing job with creating a center where people feel included, people feel welcome, that it’s hard to see them as separate. I think that’s a testament to how he makes people feel."

Windmeyer came to IU in the summer of 1995 as a graduate student, a decision based largely on the fact that the office existed.

During his time on campus, Windmeyer became a leader in the GLBT community, and his work continued after college as co-founder of the national organization Campus Pride, which supports students, leaders and campus organizations working to create safe college environments for GLBT students.

Windmeyer attributes his work and his successes to his time spent with Bauder.

“I gave him a pair of ruby red slippers he has on his desk. I came from Kansas, so that was one of my gifts to him: ‘There’s no place like home,’” Windmeyer said. “A home he has created for so many students when they might not be able to talk to their family, when they feel alone or isolated.

"I’m fortunate that I get to travel the country and talk about issues to students across the country and hopefully be a sense of support. For me, I learned all those skills from Doug.”

Living authentically

Greg Chaffin, a three-time IU graduate, is proud of his time at the university.

While he can look back on IU fondly, he admits his journey to campus was during one of the darkest parts of his life. He had just broken off an engagement and had come out to his parents, a revelation that caused his loved ones to cut him off for more than two years.

“I’ve always been a fairly positive person. … The lowest part of my entire life was through the coming out process,” he said. “It was the only time I remember in my life that I was so depressed that, for a fleeting time, I thought of ending my life. I will never forget that feeling of complete and utter separation from personal identity that I had had before that was anchored in my family, that was anchored in friendships I had lost, that was anchored in religion.” 

However, after finding the GLBT office -- which he entered through the side door because he wasn’t yet comfortable being seen entering the building -- Chaffin said he started to see light at the end of the tunnel. 

Pins decorate Doug Bauder's office doorway.

“To make real connections, to real people who were going through some of the similar things and seeing how they navigated it all or how they were currently navigating it was incredibly powerful to me,” he said. “When I say it was life-changing and life-altering, I wonder what my life would have been like had I not had that support and that place to go?”

Many of the students Bauder saw in the early years were like Chaffin -- excited they had a place to go, but scared about what it meant to be an openly gay person.

“In the early days, a lot of the students who were coming in here were dealing with coming out issues, how to do this in a way that is responsible and with roommates, with friends, ultimately with family,” Bauder said.

To help students like himself, Chaffin helped develop a program where students studying counseling could serve an internship at the office, counseling young people who visited.

In what he calls a “full circle” moment, Chaffin became the office’s first counseling intern. Although he worked with many students, it was an elderly faculty member’s story of never being able to be his true authentic self that has stuck with Chaffin after all these years.

“Our sessions were absolutely nothing but weeping, and he would share about his lost life,” Chaffin recalled. “He spent his whole life not being able to come out to his friends, feeling like he lost an entire life because he wasn’t able to come out.  That was so powerful for me and remains so powerful for me because I feel so lucky that I live now when I live and could take those risks to have a happy life as a gay person.”

A new generation

There are lots of parts to senior Xander Harty. He’s a telecommunications student, he enjoys mathematics, he’s an avid reader and he works as an office assistant at the GLBT Student Support Services Office, editing and distributing its weekly newsletter. 

He’s also gay, a fact he acknowledged when he was 14 years old.

“I came out my freshman year of high school,” he said. “The only people I explicitly told and had that conversation with were my really close friends. Other than that it was more like a trickle effect, where I stopped denying it if people asked. But I wasn’t making open announcements.”

As the years pass, Bauder sees more students like Harty who are coming out in high school or even middle school and who are finding more acceptance than gay people did 20 years ago.

That change hasn’t diminished the number of students using the office. It’s simply changed what resources they are looking for. 

“I think the students are more confident within themselves so they usually walk through the door looking for specific resources to be advocates themselves,” Bauder said. “They are already out enough or sure enough of who they are that they want to do something to help others.”

One way students have used the office to help others is through Freedom Indiana, a statewide bipartisan group that opposed legislation to amend the state constitution to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.

IU students gathered at the GLBT office four nights a week in fall 2013 to set up a phone bank to encourage constituents to contact their legislators to vote against the amendment. 

IU students spent hours last year on behalf of Freedom Indiana to fight against legislation to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Sophomore Morgan Mohr, who identifies as pansexual, spearheaded the campus campaign, an effort she did on behalf of civil rights and one of her close friends.

“One of my best friends in high school is gay,” she said. “He still hasn’t come out to his parents because of that stigma and because of their religious fervor. And I know that doing that for the campaign hasn’t necessarily made a huge difference in his personal life, but it’s made a huge difference for thousands of people in that community in the state.” 

Being able to advocate on behalf of gay rights in an office that has been a safe haven for the GLBT community for two decades, was not lost on Mohr.

Although the group was able to defeat HJR-3, the fight for civil rights for the GLBT community continues, Mohr said, most of which will come out of the office right here on campus.

“Just the fact that such a charged campaign happened just a year ago … it’s ridiculous to assume that we live in a post-sexual orientation society,” she said. “It’s really not the case, and I think one good thing about IU, we are one of the best campuses in the nation for LGBTQ-friendly attitudes, and I think the center is a huge cornerstone to that.”

Working through transition

One of the current issues being addressed on campus is providing services to transgender students like Ethan Jackson.

A senior majoring in legal studies and minoring in gender studies, Jackson grew up in a small town in northeast Indiana. Jackson said he was a tomboy growing up and has early memories of telling his parents he identified as male and them denying that.

Jackson eventually identified as a lesbian, but after a summer of introspection in New Zealand, he began researching IU and the GLBT office and decided to utilize his move to Bloomington as a means of transitioning.

“I kind of decided, 'All right, I can do this,'” he said. “That’s when I decided to change my name to Ethan in their system.”

But deciding to transition can be a difficult process, especially when one's parents are not aware it is taking place.

“I had no resources as far as my family is concerned in that area, right in the very beginning at least,” he said. “So the GLBT center was a support system, a place that I could go to just feel a little bit more like I belonged.” 

When Jackson first arrived, there were also a lot of places that didn’t accept students who went by a different name than is on their birth certificate.

Many times, Jackson said, he would be sitting in the health center only to be called by his birth name. A call to IU’s counseling and psychological services also proved frustrating when Jackson was told it could not be guaranteed that he would be called by his preferred name or even referred to as male.

“For me the issue with my legal name being read out loud in a waiting room will not just ruin my day, but ruin my month,” he said. “It feels awful. It’s like being told your identity isn’t valid, that you’re lying which is just not true. It’s a terrible feeling."

Empowered and supported by the GLBT office, Jackson got to know Bauder, who encouraged him to take the lead on a project to help students navigate IU’s system when it comes to transitioning on campus.

Even Bauder, who has been advocating for the GLBT community for decades, admits there’s work to do with the trans community.

“We’re learning more about both the intersection of gender identity and sexual orientation but also the unique issues that trans or gender queer students are needing to deal with,” he said. “There just seems like there is always something new to learn. Sometimes I would suggest we’re with trans students now where we were 20 years ago with gay issues, that they are still doing some of that advocacy.”

Jackson hopes the work he is doing and the support from the office and Bauder will help IU continue to progress in its support for all students.

“Where IU was four years ago is barely recognizable where it is now and where it’s heading, which is amazing,” he said. For example, the IU Health Center now has a preferred name system.

Although things may be different now, students like Harty understand the struggles that have led to the freedoms he has now. He also acknowledges the work left to do when it comes to gender identification.

“I think especially the B and the T in GLBT still need a lot more support to really get to the status in society of being treated equally and with respect,” Harty said. “Whereas 20 years ago, gay people didn’t feel safe, today trans people still really aren’t safe. They can’t do things like go use a public restroom without being afraid, which is just horrible. I think those are particular areas that still need a lot of work.”

As for Shane O'Bannon, although he will be there Nov. 19 when the office celebrates 20 years of service, he hopes that one day a place like the GLBT Student Support Services Office won't be needed.

“Hopefully in the future there won’t be any coming out, any big announcement,” he said. “We won’t need to jump up and say ‘I’m gay! You need to recognize me as gay and I should get special treatment or I shouldn’t get special treatment.' I would just like people to be like ‘Oh, there’s Shane and there’s his boyfriend, that’s cool. I’m glad you’re happy.’ Just like there’s Jane and there’s Joe and they’re happy too. Just people in relationships.”

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Written by April Toler 
Produced by April Toler and Terrick Beitvashahi
Videos by Milana Katic and Jon Stante
Photos by Eric Rudd
IU Newsroom, 2014