Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

A Few Clouds, 73 °F


delfin bautista

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing


delfin bautista participates in a 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

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The colorful and the messy, the delfin bautista story

In the year since delfin bautista* took over the Ohio University LGBT Center, quite a bit has changed.

The center has expanded its safe-zone offerings to include several diverse aspects of university life, running programs for everyone from medical school students to university athletes in an effort to promote cohesion between LGBT students and their peers.

“I’ve learned that it’s not business as usual,” bautista said. “A bunch of folks have told me certain parts of campus, like the athletic department, are off limits. That there are a lot of barriers and that it takes a certain level of negotiation and diplomacy and politics to even get your foot in the door. I decided I was going to try, and then just see what happens.”

Bautista recognizes that much of their desire to educate others about the variances of gender identity and sexuality stems from a childhood where they were not afforded such information.

“I grew up in a Hispanic household where we knew that different wasn’t welcome or accepted,” bautista recalled, thinking back on their upbringing in Miami. “My family was very involved in church and so I embraced religion. It became the only aspect of myself that I explored because everything else was off limits.”

It wasn’t until their early 20s, while embarking on a silent retreat in seminary that bautista realized they were different.

“When you’re in silence for a month, things come out in more ways than one,” bautista said. “And so I came out, and came out as gay because it was the only word I knew at the time. I knew that there was this thing called ‘gay’ and this thing called ‘lesbian’ and that both things were bad. But I came out as gay—even though that didn’t quite fit—because it was the only thing I knew.”

After this realization, bautista eventually in their late 20s, came out as transgender, or more specifically, genderqueer or two-spirit.

“It’s been an interesting ride ever since,” bautista said. “Of not only understanding myself, but creating spaces where people are able to ask tough questions and wrestle with things that are not black and white, things that are colorful and messy.

"My goal here at the university is to create spaces where we’re not only talking about sexual orientation and gender identity, we’re looking at how those aspects of who we are intersect with race, and with religion, and with politics. Looking at who we are as queer people, who we are as LGBT people, and how that intersects with so many aspects of who we are and aspects of society. We’re making the distinctions even messier.”

Most recently, bautista has chosen to bridge the gap between athletics and the LGBT community. They provided the keynote address for the Fall Semester Club Sports Student Advancement Seminar, where more than 400 club sports athletes and athletic supervisors attended.

“I spoke on what it means to create a safer campus environment, and how that translates to a team or sports group that is safe and welcoming of all,” bautista said. “There are a lot of athletes who are coming out publicly, but there is still backlash when they do. I also looked at trans identities and what that means around who can and cannot join a specific team.”

Bautista believes that this seminar was only the beginning of a great collaboration.

“One of the things I shared was that it is important that athletes come to LGBT Center events to show their solidarity and support, but that also is true for us. It’s important for us [LGBT community] to go to games and matches, and show our support,” bautista said. “It’sabout a mutual support and visibility. I know it is intimidating for both sides, but we’re not going to let that stop us. We’re going to trek forward and be present. We’re certainly not going to back away from any challenges.”

For more information on the OHIO LGBT Center, visit their website at ohio.edu/LGBT or stop in Baker University Center 354.

*delfin prefers the lowercase form of their name and gender neutral pronouns