Editor’s note: delfin bautista uses they/them pronouns and uses the lowercase spelling of their name. 

In firing delfin bautista, the former director of the LGBT Center, Ohio University has lost a tremendous asset for the entire Athens community. 

In my nine years of living in Athens, the LGBT Center has been a second home. I transferred to Ohio University as an undergrad in January 2003 and immediately sought out the LGBT Center and its surrounding community. I transferred to OU from a private Christian university in Kansas, where I felt unwelcome after coming out as queer. I needed support as I learned to accept myself  — as queer and, later, as transgender  — and as I struggled to come out to my rural Kansas family.

I was eventually employed by the center for 2 1/2 years, and I served in leadership positions in LGBT student organizations my entire three and a half years in Athens, starting as the treasurer of the Swarm of Dykes. The center provided the support and stability I desperately needed as I navigated several huge life changes.

When I arrived back in Athens in 2013 to study for my doctoral degree., I couldn’t have been happier to meet delfin bautista, who had just arrived in Athens a month before me. Under their direction, I watched the LGBT Center become more welcoming to students of color and trans and gender non-conforming students — those who most need the center’s support. They strengthened connections between the center and academic departments, teaching courses with the WGSS department and speaking with classes about LGBT issues. 

delfin successfully organized the first Athens Pride Parade and helped create a community LGBT coalition to support Athens and Southeastern Ohio residents beyond the university. I was thrilled to also encounter delfin at rallies, art events and marches to protest racism, to support international students — events not explicitly related to LGBT issues. 

delfin is not just an employee of the university but a valued community member who has invested much of their time and energy in making Athens a better place. 

I know the importance of the LGBT Center for many of OU’s students because I was one of those students who needed it most. delfin brings so much life and energy to the center, to the university and to the Athens community. 

I am appalled at the callous way that delfin was fired from their position without any regard for the students that delfin serves. OU is making a grave mistake in removing delfin from this position, and in doing so, is making the students delfin represents feel unsafe, unwelcome and unsupported. 

I urge Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban and university President Duane Nellis to keep in mind those vulnerable students who delfin represents — queer and trans students, rural students, students of color and students who depend on the center for the support they lack from their families  — as the LGBT Center moves forward. 

The LGBT Center needs a strong voice from within the LGBTQ community who can advocate for those students, and there was no better voice to represent that community than delfin. 

Elliot Long is a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary arts at Ohio University.