Former North Carolina resident and native Samuel Byrd will transition into the role of director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources at Yale University during the month of December.
Maria Trumpler, founding director of the office, will retire December 1, although she will work closely with Yale newcomer Byrd throughout the month.
Trumpler has led the office since it opened in 2005 and will formally leave on Jan. 1, 2022, after helping facilitate the transition. Also a professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Trumpler plans to continue teaching for another year before retiring fully from Yale.
Byrd previously worked in LGBTQ campus life at North Carolina State University, the University of California, Berkeley and California Polytechnic State University.
While working towards tenure, building awareness of intersectionality and forming partnerships with other campus organizations is at the top of Byrd’s priority list.
“At the forefront of my mind is developing ways to continue to support mental health and wellbeing by promoting queer joy, centering the most marginalized members of our community within our work and advocacy and serving as a strategic partner for intersectional justice by building key partnerships with other cultural centers and social justice organizations on and off campus,” Byrd said.
According to Elizabeth Conklin, the University’s associate vice president for institutional equity, access and belonging, a committee of seven faculty members began the process of hiring a new director early this June.
Conklin added that throughout the search process, those involved hoped to find someone who would serve as a leader in “community building, advocacy, outreach and education.”
“It was particularly important for our next director to have in-depth knowledge of and commitment to supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community,” Conklin wrote in an email. “They also needed to demonstrate experience and ability to collaborate effectively with a broad and diverse range of campus stakeholders.”
Conklin described Byrd as an “experienced, thoughtful, highly engaged leader,” and confirmed the North Carolina native is well-equipped to begin leading the office.
Byrd has worked for the past 12 years as a gender and sexuality educator, consultant, national-board certified counselor and, during that same time, served as an interfaith chaplain, public school teacher, activist and college lecturer and counselor.
“I became involved in this field by learning to navigate rural Appalachian communities with few resources, always feeling like a person who lives in the marginal spaces of identities that always did not fit together neatly,” Byrd said. “In college, I found myself drawn to people in underrepresented communities and to liberation work, discovering my calling for this field and numerous queer and trans mentors who have guided me on this journey. So now, whether in the halls of Vatican City, Moral Marches on state capitals, lobbying congress or in the classroom, I advocate for social transformation and an ethic of radical love.”
In the long-term, Byrd hopes to increase queer leadership and visibility on campus, conduct a benchmark assessment to align the office with other peer institutions and connect the office to a broader network of LGBTQ resources through the Consortium of Higher Education LGBTQ Resource Professionals and Centerlink: The Community of LGBTQ Centers.
Another significant point for Byrd: the importance of campus spaces dedicated to LGBTQ life.
“Queer spaces developed out of a need for safer meeting places for LGBTQ folks to be able to come together, organize, and socialize without fear of abuse, ridicule, or violence,” Byrd explained. “It is a place to learn about queer history and underrepresented identities, which are often not taught in our communities of origin and a place to resist together those messages from dominant culture that aim to erase, silence or push to the margins the lives and contributions of our people.”
This article previously appeared in the Yale Daily News. It has been edited
for space limitations and regional clarity. It appears in QNotes with the permission of author Lucy Hodgman. To read the story in its entirety, go here.