Walk into the LGBTQA Resource Center, and it immediately feels warm and welcoming. There are colorful flyers and posters on the wall, a coffee and tea station, a gender-neutral bathroom, and a shelf full of gender-affirming care products. The Center is under renovation now, scheduled to open in late summer to a redecorated larger space, but its mission isn’t changing: to provide information, support, community space, programming, and resources to LGBTQIA2S+ and questioning students. (LGBTQIA2S+ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and the countless affirmative ways in which people choose to self-identify).
At the front of this charge is Kevin Vetiac, affable and caring director (pronouns: they/he) of the LGBTQA Resource Center. He’s tall and slender, with a big smile and a clean-cut appearance. In the two years that Vetiac has headed up the Center, his impact is measurable: they’ve launched new programs and events and worked to support student organizations and affinity groups. The Center has distributed free gender-affirming care products and over students have been supported with name change requests, health care navigation and direct resourcing.
Calypso sat down with Vetiac to talk to them about their work with LGBTQA Resource Center and how it is increasingly important in our challenging political environment.
LGBTQA individuals have many different identities. You work actively to build a socially conscious community that welcomes difference, conflict, and intercultural engagement. What’s the most difficult part of building that community? What’s the easiest part?
We want to represent all queer and trans students with their identity. So we are very intentional by making sure people see themselves represented in the programming and outreach we do throughout the year. This requires a great deal of insight – who is most likely to be drawn to this event? How do we best represent them? This work is ongoing and we never really say that we have figured it out. The easy part is that we get to do fun events from our First Thursday social, with music food, queer trivia, and more, to queer prom and rainbow graduation.
What in your background equips that you to lead the LGBTQA Resource Center? It looks like you have higher education and ministerial experience, among other things.
My own struggle to accept myself as queer when I was a teenager is what fuels me most for this work. Discovering my queerness while being the child of immigrant parents from Haiti, who were from a conservative culture, and attending a conservative Evangelical church was not easy to say the least.
I struggled in silence for years with shame and began to have bouts of depression. It took me quite a while, but eventually I began to open up and have conversations with people I trusted. Their support helped pave a path where I was able to accept myself and begin to fully live.
That experience has left me with a strong desire to support queer and trans youth. I don’t want any of them to struggle unnecessarily the way I did. It’s been an honor to be able to offer to others the support I once needed as a teenager. It’s an honor to be on the other side.
And both my background in higher education and ministry reflect my desire to serve and be of help to others. For me social justice and faith go hand in hand. My faith grounds me for the work I am doing. Supporting queer and trans students is not just a job; for me, it is a vocation.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment so far at LGBTQA Resource Center?
I would say our greatest accomplishment is creating a space where queer and trans students with multiple intersecting identities feel safe, seen and celebrated. Nothing else is possible without this happening first. Everything else is built upon this foundation, such as the Navigation Resource System and Affirmation Access Project. The Navigation Resource System provides one-on-one support to students seeking referrals to healthcare, legal, or community resources on and off campus. The Affirmation Access Project distributes free gender-affirming care items to queer, trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, Two-Spirit, and questioning students and ensures that students have access to community supports.
How long have you been there and what changes in culture/society have you seen since you’ve started?
When I first started in July 2021, anti-trans legislation was beginning to bubble up, but now it has exploded. Over 500 anti-trans legislations have been proposed and this has really affected the stress level of students coming to our center. Northeastern students already face a lot of pressure from their academics and other responsibilities. Now they have to deal with these bills and the state government disagreeing with their right to exist. This is taking a toll on their mental health. For my team and me, this means we need to prioritize students’ needs and be fully present. I am really hoping this is a phase we will ride out and that things will get better, but in the meantime, we are here for the queer and trans students who have to go back home to these states where bills have been introduced, and we support them with initiatives like the Affirmation Access Project.
Why is it important that LGBTQIA+ communities thrive?
There is a ripple effect. We are all living together in society and we all do better when any given individual is doing better. When queer and trans students feel safe and able to thrive in classes, we all benefit. We are all connected.
What are some misconceptions about LGBTQIA+ communities that you’d like to debunk?
The thought that it is just one monolithic culture. But that is not the case. There are so many experiences under this queer and trans umbrella. We need to encourage people to be better allies and spend time to get to know the particularities of each community. The experience of a cis gay man is very different from a black trans woman, for example.
It was pride month in June but you believe that we shouldn’t celebrate Pride on only one month, but all year long; queer and trans youth need support all year. Can you elaborate?
Pride month is an excellent opportunity for allies to show support for queer and trans people, but June shouldn’t be the only month when allies step forward. Queer and trans youth need support all year long, and I would love to see allies think about ways they can celebrate and support queer and trans youth on an ongoing basis. It’s the day in and day out support that makes a vital difference. So, for all of our campus partners, please don’t wait until June when most of our students are gone, to collaborate. Our center is here all year long and collaborations have the most direct impact upon our students during the fall and spring semesters.
You have a deep love for music and served as the Music Director of The Crossing, a queer Episcopal congregation in downtown Boston. Tell me about what music does for you and why you love it and how it helps form your identity.
I did that for six years, it was a real joy, it was the first church I became a part of after coming out. Music for me is really a gift. A part of me is very rational and pragmatic, so it’s easy for me to overthink but singing provides a sense of balance and freedom for me. Music opens me up in a certain way that enhances the work that I do. We actually sang a song for our rainbow graduation ceremony, Lean On Me. It was bittersweet saying goodbye but we were so happy to celebrate the students’ accomplishments.
What’s one fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
The quickest way to become my friend is to give me dark chocolate. It never fails.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.