A Conversation with Travis Becker

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image2Travis Becker is just reaching his one-year mark as the director of Cantú Queer Center on campus. Becker is only the second director of the center, which first opened its doors in the late ’90s as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Community and Resource Center. Becker talked about how he plans to continue to make UCSC a safe space and what it means to support students after the Orlando nightclub shooting and election of Donald Trump.

CHP: What drew you to the position as the director at the Cantú Queer Center?

Becker: I came to my understanding of my own sexual identity really late in the game by working at a LGBTQ center in graduate school. I know the power that queer centers can have in terms of their ability to be spaces to help the campus be more transformative in their work for supporting queer and trans students. The LGBTQ center was very much my safe space, where I explored aspects of my identity. That’s always been something, since having that experience, I wanted to give back.

CHP: What does your job as the director of the Cantú Queer Center entail?

Becker: My typical day depends on what’s coming up for the students in any given moment. My typical day should and needs to depend on whatever their most pressing needs are. I’m here to serve the students, and I think that’s the unique take I have in my role as director.

CHP: In the wake of the election of Trump, how do you feel allies of the LGBTQIA+ community can show their support and help to make UCSC a safe space?

Becker: In terms of the word allies, one thing I would like to do is to encourage people not to call themselves allies. I think ally is a term that the community puts on you. I would encourage people to say that they are practicing ally behavior.

My answer to that question is two parts. I think folks need to do their research and really understand what the risks and laws are and how power and oppression works within queer and trans communities. The second part is really looking within themselves and understanding how comfortable are they in terms of giving back and being supportive. I think there are a lot of different ways that people can get involved. The point is not to just sit back and do nothing.

CHP: What else do you think the administration could be doing to make UC Santa Cruz a safe campus at this time?

Becker: The administration needs to work with the city of Santa Cruz to come up with real and tangible solutions to the housing crisis because the housing crisis lands hard on our transgender and gender nonconforming students, who already feel challenged in some ways with the lack of housing. They go out into the community when they don’t finding housing that works for them on campus, or if they can’t afford to live on campus and moving off campus is the only option. It’s challenging to find housing in Santa Cruz regardless, but particularly for our trans and gender nonconforming students and community members there’s even less availability because people discriminate against them in unconscious ways. I know that there are no easy answers, but I think there needs to be a bigger commitment around that.