Place Setting: Gender and Sexuality Center Lounge

8 August 2013

Located in the basement of Scoville, the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) is a welcoming space where students can pop in for a cup of tea, browse through an extensive library of books and magazines that cover women’s, men’s, and LGBT issues, and chat with friendly staff members.    

“Carleton is dedicated to having a healthy and supportive community,” says GSC director Kaaren Williamsen. “We welcome everyone, including people of diverse gender and sexuality identities. We want everybody on campus to treat each other well.”

To that end, the GSC (founded in 2001) sponsors a variety of events on and off campus, from marching in the annual Twin Cities Pride Parade to staging Carleton Monologues, a reading of personal pieces written by Carleton community members and inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. The GSC staff—which includes two area directors and 12 students—also helps organize Doing it Right, an event during New Student Week that teaches incoming students about healthy relationships.      

At its heart, the GSC’s mission is to support a positive campus culture, and that’s evident in the lounge, where visitors are encouraged to make themselves at home.

Gender & Sexuality Center Lounge
  1. Kaaren Williamsen: Director of the GSC since its inception, Williamsen says the best part of her job is working with student peer leaders. “They’re full of ideas and optimism for the future,” she says. “They hold each other accountable and are dedicated to creating the kind of community they want to live in.”
  2. Students (from left): American studies and women’s and gender studies major Matt Weinstein ’14 (Cincinnati) hangs out with some GSC peer leaders, including biology major Arden Caffrey ’13 (Waynesville, N.C.), chemistry and women’s and gender studies major Michael McClellan ’13 (Independence, Mo.), sociology/anthropology and women’s and gender studies major Truc Anh Kieu ’14 (Minneapolis), and cognitive studies and women’s and gender studies major Lauren Chow ’14 (Weston, Mass.). “The GSC makes everyone feel comfortable being who they are,” says Caffrey. “That’s why it’s a special place on campus for me.”
  3. Pillar: Chalkboard paint transformed this pillar into a message board that alerts visitors to upcoming events such as discussion forums, student-facilitated FemSex or MSex classes (no-credit courses about female or male sexuality and sexual health), and peer education workshops on topics like sexuality, gender, or sexual violence prevention.
  4. Buttons: This basket of buttons is left over from last year’s 5K for Hope race, an annual Carleton-sponsored benefit for the HOPE Center, a domestic violence shelter in Faribault. The GSC staff promotes the race by creating and handing out buttons to participants, as well as by other advertising.
  5. When I Knew: Based on fashion and celebrity photographer Robert Trachtenberg’s 2005 book of the same name, this booklet features art and stories from Carleton students and alumni who reflect on when they first knew they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The GSC has published two volumes of this booklet over the past five years.
  6. Pens and postcards: To illustrate the spectrum of gender and sexuality, GSC staff members hand out a different color pen each year to the Carleton community. The postcard commemorating the GSC’s 10th anniversary in 2011 featured a photo of all 10 colored pens from the past decade arranged chronologically.
  7. Yellow sheets: These information sheets offer advice and anecdotes from students on a variety of topics, including a first kiss, effective communication with a partner, and healthy sexuality. They are also posted in residence halls.
  8. T-Shirt: Miles Harris ’08 created this rainbow penguin design for Out After Carleton, Carleton’s LGBT alumni group, which was founded in 1992.
  9. Ceramics: Eclectic decorations enhance the homey feel of the GSC lounge. These two pots were made and donated by Allie Schwartz ’10.
  10. Prayer flags: When she was in D.C. for the 2009 Obama inauguration, Williamsen bought these rainbow celebration flags (handmade in Kathmandu, Nepal) at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters.
  11. Colored decals: Last year, the student staff decorated the lounge with these designs by Keith Haring, a gay artist and social activist who died of AIDS-related complications
  12. Library: The GSC has more than 1,000 books, DVDs, and magazines that are available to anyone in the Carleton community and are searchable through Bridge2, the Gould Library’s online catalog. View staff recommendations and the library wish list at

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