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Helping People "Out"

Helping People "Out"The LGBT Center's new director Tom Bourdon discusses his personal and professional experiences with services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on college campuses.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.27.09] When Tom Bourdon was an undergraduate in the early 90s-as he puts it, "a closeted college student confronted with issues of sexual orientation"-he saw life on a college campus very differently than he sees it today. "It was a lonely struggle," recalls Bourdon who went to college in the New England area. "I was on a campus where I never saw anything queer, there were no 'out' students, faculty or staff members and pretty much no support services."

Coming to Tufts last September as the new director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Center, Bourdon says he hopes to use his first year to get the lay of the land and find out how to best build on the legacy that Tufts has already created in the area of LGBT services.

"Tufts is very strong in LGBT services," Bourdon says, citing the school's ranking as one of the top 20 LGBT-friendly schools in the Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. "I want to build upon all of the positive successes and also bring my experience from other schools here to create additional services."

After obtaining a degree in business as an undergraduate, Bourdon moved to California where he spent time working in the entertainment industry. Wanting something more fulfilling, Bourdon received a master's in education from UCLA, where he eventually became assistant director of LGBT services.

"I didn't even know that college LGBT centers existed before I stepped foot onto the UCLA campus," Bourdon says. "I immediately fell in love with what LGBT centers had to offer.I saw how students were getting support from these centers and having successful college experiences as a result of such interactions."

Among the additional services Bourdon has created was the Tufts LGBT Symposium held on Apr. 18 as part of this year's "Gaypril" events. Gaypril is a month-long annual series of cultural and academic offerings for members of the Tufts community interested in LGBT issues.

Looking at Tufts' history hosting the "Safe Colleges" event, a regional conference on LGBT issues that was open to students from all over New England and held yearly at Tufts until 2007, Bourdon says he wanted to create something similar that would be just for Tufts students.

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"I know a lot of students doing work on in or outside of their curriculum, and graduate students who are studying LGBT-specific topics, so I thought it would be nice to pull everything together and give students the opportunity to come and present on those topics," he says.

The symposium hosted seven student presentations, including ones from students who attended this year's National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Conference, thanks to a grant Bourdon had acquired from the Tufts Diversity Fund.

Other events included a guided tour of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston focused specifically on gay artists and a student-led trip to the Massachusetts State House for Mass Transgender Political Coalition Lobby Day to speak with different representatives about why it's important to incorporate transgender rights into state laws.

As the Gaypril events come to a close, Bourdon says he is looking forward to the Senior Reception on Apr. 28 at the Remis Sculpture Court, where seniors can speak about their experiences as a LBGT student on campus. Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, the nation's first openly gay black female mayor, will give opening remarks at the event.

"This is very exciting, and I really hope that the reception is something everybody feels they can go to, to help honor these students and to celebrate the legacy that they had here," says Bourdon.

Looking to the future, Bourdon hopes to act as a continued source for support and education on LBGT issues for the Tufts community.

"There's always so much education to be done, and I really see a major part of my role as making sure that I'm not only working with the LGBT students but the population as a whole," Bourdon says. "If I'm only preaching to the choir then I'm really not doing my job, because there's so much more work that needs to be done on this, and every, college campus."

Story by Kaitlin Provencher, Web Communications.

 

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