New LGBT Center graduate assistant seeks to create inclusive environment


Kat Orlovitz

RaQuon D. Haynes is the new Graduate assistant for the LGBT+ Center. Haynes is a first year graduate student majoring in marriage and family therapy.

Laura Boaggio, Reporter

The Henderson Springs LGBT Center is identifiable in Plemmons Student Union by the rainbow painted on its doorway wall, leading students into the center. At the end of this rainbow, ready to welcome students into the community, is new graduate assistant RaQuon Haynes.

Haynes earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at North Carolina A&T University and is pursuing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at App State. 

Haynes said he wants to make intersectionality more visible in the LGBT center, and bring racial and social backgrounds in relation to one’s sexuality and identity to light. White transgender and non-binary people mostly govern the LGBT Center, and he wants people of color to feel welcome in the space, too. 

“With me being black and gay, I have double intersectionality, especially with this campus being a (predominately white institution),” Haynes said. 

Students in the past have complained about feeling uncomfortable in the center, Haynes said, and he hopes to create a more inclusive environment where volunteers, members and visitors can relax and enjoy what the community has to offer.  

“I want to connect with a whole community of people that may have felt uncomfortable, and I want them all to feel comfortable by the time my work is done,” Haynes said. 

Haynes said black individuals face hardships in the LGBT community that white people don’t have to deal with, such as a lack of access to resources. 

A UCLA Williams Institute School of Law study on the LGBT population in the United States found that black people in the community statistically scored higher on socioeconomic indicators, such as unemployment and food insecurity, than white people did. 

“Equality and equity don’t really play hand in hand when it comes to the opportunities you may have, versus the obstacles you may have to jump through to get there,” Haynes said.

The previous LGBT graduate assistant stepped down before the start of this semester, and The Office of Multicultural Student Development began seeking a replacement for the position immediately. 

The LGBT Center is one of three branches governed by MSD, along with the Women’s Center and Multicultural Center. Assistant director Jerisha Farrer echoed Haynes’ words by saying diversity is a pivotal and unexplored sector of higher education. Farrer said the UNC System is a fragile ecosystem where students come from all walks of life with varying social, economic, racial and religious backgrounds.

I want to connect with a whole community of people that may have felt uncomfortable, and I want them all to feel comfortable by the time my work is done.

— RaQuon Haynes

Kristen Benson, marriage and therapy program director, reached out and said she had a student who may be interested. 

Haynes sent in his information and was instantly interviewed. 

“I felt very comfortable because I wasn’t foreign to any of the things they were asking me to do,” Haynes said.  

Farrer said the LGBT center is a delicate space because of the people it supports and MSD wanted to find the right person for the position. Haynes’ had an extensive interview included working in the center and interacting with students during the first week of school. 

“We left him alone for two hours, and came back, and got raving feedback from the students that were in there,” Farrer said. 

Farrer said Haynes is responsible for making the LGBT Center flow as smoothly as possible when it comes to programming, immediate support and directing students to proper resources. Haynes said he must use professional discretion when guiding students through personal issues regarding gender and sexual identity.

“I know that might be a very big task to put on for a grad student,” Ferrer said. “But, how we operate up here at MSD is that we make sure we have an open flow of communication. 

Scott Johnson, senior political science and sustainable development major and member of the LGBT community, said the LGBT Center is a safe haven for App State students, and the inclusivity comes from education and outreach to the public. 

“They’re not just informative, but they’re approachable,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said the black and white LGBT communities are very different, and he’s happy to see a grad assistant with a new lens in the group. 

As an undergraduate, Haynes was involved with People Recognizing Our Underlying Differences, an organization dedicated to supporting the identities of members of the LGBTQ community through educational outreach and advocacy, according to its Facebook page. 

 PROUD sought to have an LGBT center in the NC A&T student union, but Haynes said the LGBT community had barriers at NC A&T because it is a historically black college and the community’s needs were not prioritized. 

He said the environments at NC A&T and App State are an adjustment for him because of the racial and cultural differences, but he wants to push for the same normality in supporting equal rights for everyone. 

Haynes said he wants to earn a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and dive deeper into the field, specifically through counseling black LGBT youth. He also wants to have a private practice after he graduates.

Although his new job responsibilities are more than what he has experienced in the past, Haynes said it is comparable to what he did during his undergraduate years. He has worked for the LGBT community for years, but at App State, he is managing a center, not just a club. 

“It’s not something that intimidates me; it’s just more of a learning experience,” Haynes said.