Unbeknownst to many, the second floor of the Union is home to arguably the most colorful room on campus. The Rainbow Resource Center (RRC), an LGBTQ-focused support community, provides a safe space for passionate and open-minded discussion.
Graduate Assistant Crissi Dalfonzo, whose office is as brightly colored as the center’s namesake, currently staffs the center. From the rainbow slinkies and buttons to the pictures of students and staff alike, Dalfonzo’s office provides students a welcoming environment free of judgment or criticism.
The RRC is a unique resource facility available to students of the LGBTQ community that is, in many ways, unique to the university. The center’s mission statement states, “LGBTQ Services empowers and increases the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people by promoting equality and inclusiveness at the University of Maine. LGBTQ Services strives to maintain an open, safe and supportive environment for all students, staff, faculty and alumni and provides educational opportunities, information and advocacy services.”
For those who have never been, the center’s decorative walls are designed to brighten anybody’s mood — and it’s just as effective as it is tiny. The office is “a combination of my office and the center itself, [which is] like a student lounge,” Dalfonzo said. “We usually have a student employee at the desk and we almost always have students in the office. It’s for students who have time to spare between meetings or classes or something, like a home away from home. There’s a lot of debate and conversation.” Anyone stopping by is sure to be greeted with both familiar and new faces, but the goal is for everyone to be able to feel respected and comfortable in their own skin.
Dalfonzo oversees the programs and events coordinated by the RRC. “We offer a myriad of resources like student workers, myself and other fun stuff like holding bi-weekly LGBTQ tea parties, which are curated discussions,” she said. “Topics in the past include transgender stereotypes, why we do the Drag Show, pop culture events, the election and more.”
Dalfonzo has observed a lot of discussion in the RRC recently about the current sociopolitical environment and how it has affected students, specifically LGBTQ students as a whole.
Misconceptions about the LGBTQ community are still prevalent, so the RRC continuously aims to be “an LGBTQ friendly resource looking to get information out there and educate the campus as a whole, creating a space in this office where students are truly comfortable,” Dalfonzo added.
“A lot of schools don’t have an office, much less LGBTQ resources,” Dalfonzo said. “It’s a big thing that we do have this…it’s a little more progressive and it’s a really nice community.”
At the end of the day, the RRC works as a support system for all students and adapts its resources to fit student’s current needs. “We support Wilde Stein and we work with other offices as well…but we’re open to any suggestions. It’s all about what the students want to see.” The RRC even began offering free grown-up coloring pages to any interested parties, when coloring for adults became a trendy stress reliever.
LGBTQ Services is anticipating an event filled semester, starting with the first LGBTQ tea party on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. in the RRC and then continuing every other week for the rest of the semester. The RRC also offers free Safe Zone training, the first of which is on Monday, Feb. 13 and then again on Tuesday, March 21, with the final training ending on Tuesday, April 11. The website offers more information on the training and the options to sign up. The continuously popular Pride Week will begin on Monday, April 10 and continue that whole week, culminating in the Drag Show on April 15.
More events will be scheduled closer to that time to promote Pride Week and Dalfonzo hopes to have a rainbow tie dye-ing shirt day, so that students will have something to wear during Pride Week to show support. In addition, Wilde Stein meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Senior Skulls Room.