After collecting feedback from students, staff and alumni in a process that began almost three years ago, the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs has changed its name to The Spectrum Center.
The center, which officially announced its new name yesterday morning, launched the campaign to find a title that would allow for a broader range of gender identities.
“The community is more complex than the letters L-G-B-T,” said Jackie Simpson, the director of the center. “We believe the name change will allow more people to see themselves connected to the office.”
The announcement marks the end of an extensive exploratory period during which the office sought opinions from different constituencies from all corners of the University. After sponsoring open forums, brown bag lunches, surveys and blogs, it became clear that people wanted the center’s name to have “variety, fluidity, multiplicity, and complexity,” Simpson said.
A recent online survey asked open-ended questions like, “What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the Office of LGBT Affairs?” and yes-or-no questions like, “Are abbreviations okay?” and “Are acronyms okay?” Almost 400 people responded to the survey.
Simpson said the office decided to avoid using acronyms because they seemed too restrictive and exclusive. Some of the proposed names included the Center for Gender Identities & Sexual Orientations, Center for Queer Life, Center for Genders & Sexualities, Pride Center, Stonewall Center and Rainbow Center.
During the name transition, the office worked closely with E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, and Susan Eklund, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
“I’m so pleased that the LGBT office has taken on this important project,” Eklund said. “It has been a multi-year process and they have done a thorough and outstanding job.”
LSA senior Ruth Barkan said she approved of the center’s new name because it “requires us to look at the entire picture instead of just one aspect.”
“I hated having to define myself in a category that doesn’t fit me,” Barkan said. “I think ‘Spectrum’ will allow me to be a little more forthright in asserting my sexuality, which does not fall under the letters the office used to stand for.”
Other students shared Barkan’s view on the name.
“I think it’s going to work,” said LSA senior Amy Dickinson, co-chair of the Michigan Student Assembly’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues Commission. “We wanted to get away from something stereotypical like the Rainbow Center, and The Spectrum Center is a lot more credible.”
The Spectrum Center will also launch a design contest today in hopes of developing a new logo – one that could be displayed for Lavender Graduation, an annual ceremony that honors graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
The Center hopes to finish updating all administrative and informational directories by Aug.1.
Since it was founded in 1971, the center has undergone three name changes to accommodate shifting social constructions. The office had been known as the Office of LGBT Affairs since 1995.
Simpson said she hopes The Spectrum Center’s new name will stick for a longer period of time.
Jim Toy, founder of the organization when it was called the Human Sexuality Office, said he was pleased with the name change and the thorough evaluation process that preceded it. While he said he recommended “Rainbow Victors,” he said “Spectrum Center creatively embraces an infinite variety of constituents and their concerns.”
Simpson said that while people might resist the change at first, the campus community was given ample opportunity to weigh in on the decision.
“You can’t please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time,” Simpson said. “We really feel like we have created a space that is more inclusive both through identity identification and the work that we do. It’s a new day.”