My career as a gay and lesbian activist began the moment I walked through the front door of the Michigan Union and met Jim Toy. This was in the fall of 1978, just seven years after Jim co-founded the University of Michigan Lesbian and Gay Male Program Office, now called The Spectrum Center, the first such office of its kind in the country. I was in the first year of studying for my MBA and part of my financial package was a work study grant from the University. The Program Office had a job opening for a hot line counselor. Fortunately for me, Jim gave me the job.
About a year and half ago, many of us were here to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Spectrum Center and pay tribute to Jim. What a joyous occasion that was, and in my remarks at Rackham Hall, I said it's impossible to overestimate the impact Jim Toy has had in the pursuit of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender equality. These remarks are even more relevant today as we celebrate the opening of this, the 61st David Bohnett CyberCenter.
The very first CyberCenter opened at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in 1998. That facility was soon the most popular destination at the Gay and Lesbian Center and has provided a well designed 'blue-print' for successful CyberCenters nationwide.
My vision for the CyberCenters was that these computer labs would offer educational, research, and recreational opportunities to the local gay and lesbian community through internet access and computer skills training in a safe and welcoming environment.
David Bohnett CyberCenter's are all housed at gay and lesbian centers across the country. Some locations only serve LGBT youth, or LGBT seniors, most are at LGBT community centers, and some are located on college campuses – just like the Spectrum Center.
There are a total of 61 David Bohnett CyberCenters nationwide, this includes 9 at youth only LGBT community centers and 13 on college campuses.
Campus location include: UCLA, NYU, Duke, Penn, Columbia, UC Irvine, University of Utah, Colorado State University, University of Vermont and now University of Michigan! Go Blue!
The CyberCenters help build community. Students often come to the LGBT office to study and work because it is conveniently located near their classes. While the computers draw them in, they often gain more than a quiet place to study. They sit and talk with other students about what is happening on campus, in the news, and in their lives. The computers can serve as a great excuse to come to the Center. It may be awkward for a shy student to walk into the Center, sit in a room with nothing to do, and hope to meet people.
However, if that same student can come into the Center, and do work or surf the Internet, they do not feel as awkward and insecure. This resource can ease the nerves and anxiety of students who are in the beginning stages of building relationships at the Center. A universal theme among the campus LGBT centers is that the CyberCenter is a GREAT excuse to come through the doors of the LGBT center…”just to use the computers of course.”
Our experience shows that students from all sexual, gender and age identities utilize the CyberCenters. Campus and community LGBT centers are able to initiate contact and develop positive relationships with a wide spectrum of the non-gay population as a result of their regular visits to the CyberCenters. This is huge step in developing allies in the broader community and helping those individuals understand ways to learn and support LGBT equality.
It’s all of our hope and expectation that this new facility with enhance the already significant impact and reputation of the Spectrum Center. I am honored to continue my 35 year involvement with the Center and hope that many of the students at UM come through these doors to use this resource available to them. I encourage everyone to consider making a financial contribution to the Spectrum Center. The rewards are amazing.
Thank you to Jackie Simpson and the entire staff for helping make this happen. UM is very lucky to have Jackie's leadership and energy building on the legacy of Jim Toy and the others who helped pave the way.