LGBTQ organizations at universities and colleges serve an important role for LGBTQ students that are looking for a safe space on their campus. Despite progress over the past few decades, more than 20 percent of LGBTQ college students worry about their physical safety, according to a report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The Rio Grande Valley is, unfortunately, no exception to these national realities. Recognizing this, STC students announced that a third LGBTQ college organization is in the works to serve students in the Mid-Valley area. The organization will join Student Equality Alliance (SEA) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UT-RGV) and Equal, Open, and Free at the McAllen campus of South Texas College as college clubs serving the LGBTQ community in the Rio Grande Valley.

Aspen Basaldua, an 18-year-old trans woman currently attending STC in Weslaco, is leading the way to make this happen. The Gender Sexuality Alliance, the proposed name for the new LGBTQ club, is in the process of being formed by a group of students that includes Basaldua. Basaldua says she thought of the idea and goals behind the club earlier this month.

“The goal is to be as inclusive (as possible),” Basaldua said. “And to run it as an education support group for queer youth in the Mid-Valley area.”

The plan is for the club to be up and running before the semester ends.

SEA was known as the LGBT Alliance when it first launched in 2010. That changed when students at UT-RGV created the current name during the Fall of 2015.

Sammy Estrada, a UT-RGV student and president of the SEA at the Edinburg campus, told me it’s a top priority for the club to create safe spaces for all LGBTQ individuals. She tells me that SEA has several goals lined-up for this semester.

“Our main goal this semester is to engage more with our members and the community on and off campus,” Estrada said. “[To] create better and deeper connections with the students of UTRGV, along with having a safe space for members to meet and make new friends that will last a long time…We also bring guest speakers from different organizations on and off campus to give presentations that will educate our members too.”

Basaldua says she got inspired to move forward with the idea after she attended the 1st Annual Revolución Summit that La Union Chicanx Hijxs de Aztlan (LUCHA RGV) hosted on Jan. 12 and 13 at the Llano Grande Center in Edcouch, TX. The two-day retreat had presentations on queer and trans liberation, feminism, history of the Valley and Xicanx activism, and the importance of intersectionality in our movements.

“I felt there was a need in this community, especially for queer inclusive safe spaces,” Basaldua said. “In this political climate, queer youth are under attack. So if they feel oppressed by any system, we will be there for them.”

Spaces like these are important to Estrada, Basuldua, and LGBTQ students in the Valley. Estrada feels that not only do they provide a safe space for LGBTQ students, but they also help establish connections for students outside of their campuses.

“I believe LGBTQ organizations are very important because they are able to provide a safe space for those that identify as LGBTQ and they give a voice for those that do not have one,” Estrada said. “It is also a great way for [people to get involved in] activism and get the community to participate in different areas that matter as an individual that identifies as LGBTQ or that supports the LGBTQ community.”

Visit the OEF Facebook page or the SEA Facebook page to learn more about the organizations and upcoming events.