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She counted on her school's LGBTQ resources. Texas' anti-DEI law took some of them away

A woman in a red shirt poses on a patio with chairs and UTA flags behind her
Juan Salinas II
UT Arlington student Seraphine Pecson utilized some of her school's LGBTQ+ resources before the program was scaled back because of Senate Bill 17.

Seraphine Pecson knew she wanted to move away from her hometown in the suburbs of Houston when it was time to go to college in 2022.

She wasn’t out as trans to many people, including her parents.

“I was like, OK, high school sucks,” Pecson said. “I'm going to get through it. Once I'm in college, I'm free.”

Pecson hoped to feel more accepted at UT Arlington, named one of the top LGBTQ+-friendly colleges in the country. And for a while, she did.

I remember part of my freshman orientation was them sitting us down in a room…talking to us about the different things that the LGBTQ+ program could do,” Pecson said. “I distinctly remember writing down the email that I would need to go to..change my name. I don't know, it felt really hopeful.”

Throughout her freshman year, Pecson used the school’s LGBTQ+ resource center to get her name changed on her campus ID and for occasional counseling. Now an upcoming junior, Pecson was hoping the center could also provide guidance on starting hormone therapy last semester. But when she tried to reach out through the program’s website – the webpage was gone.

UTA had restructured the program to comply with Senate Bill 17, which bans university Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. Under the new law, Texas universities and colleges had to end their DEI programs, including scaling back and, in some cases, shuttering resource centers that served LGBTQ+ students.

UTA administrators didn’t inform the program’s supervisor or student workers about its closure until the last minute.

Before SB 17 went into effect in January, the school’s LGBTQ+ program was a hub for students like Pecson. It offered a local wellness guide and a list of national resources, such as the Trans Lifeline and Transgender Law Center.

“The LGBTQ program was big. We held events all the time,” said Ryan Hoffman, who works as an on-campus advocate offering guidance to other LGBTQ+ students. “The fact that it’s gone, and they didn't even tell anyone, was ridiculous.”

Earlier this year, UTA told KERA some services will now be offered through the newly created Intercultural Student Engagement Center. But Pecson said the services available can’t really help with the unique struggles that queer students may face.

“It's terrible to see [SB 17] have such real and terrible impacts on our campuses,” she said.

Hoffman said advocates can still help students with ID name changes and counseling, but they can’t help with gender-affirming medical care. KERA reached out to UTA for more details about its LGBTQ+ resources, but a spokesperson said they can’t readily provide that information.

Elsie Kindall, a government affairs associate with Equality Texas, said this is happening at campuses all over the state. The University of North Texas canceled its Pride celebration earlier this year; UT Austin replaced its Gender and Sexuality Center with the Women’s Community Center and ended training on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Students are left to navigate things on their own that could help them be more themselves.

“Taking away things like that [can] be impactful and hurtful, especially [to] trans students,” Kindall said.

A UTA Student protesting SB17 on campus on April 11, 2024.
Juan Salinas II
A UTA Student protesting SB17 on campus on April 11, 2024.

Filling in the gaps

Some student-run organizations — which aren't supposed to be impacted by SB17 — are trying to fill in those gaps.

UT Arlington’s Lavender Alliance set up a GoFundMe last month to help fund campus events such as the annual Drag Show and guest speakers — events the university would have paid for in the past.

Similar efforts have been made at UT Austin, where students funded a Latino graduation ceremony. University of Texas Systems Chancellor James Milliken told the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education last week that the system has cut around 311 jobs and closed 21 DEI and related offices.

UTA hasn’t seen any job cuts so far — student government leaders told KERA they were assured during a meeting with Vice President of Student Affairs Lowell Davis last semester that wouldn’t change.

UTA’s student government will receive extra funding from the university in the next academic year that student groups can apply for to pay for cultural events. Student leaders also issued a statement asking campus administration to “avoid giving in to partisan pressures relating to the implementation of the legislation.”

Seraphine Pecson says she knows the university's hands are tied when it comes to SB 17.

“Going forward, it feels like we can't really rely on administration for a lot of this stuff anymore,” she said.

Instead, she said, she and other students will have to rely on each other.

Juan Salinas II is a KERA news intern. Got a tip? Email Juan at You can follow Juan on X @4nsmiley

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you!

Juan Salinas II is currently studying journalism at UT-Arlington. He is a transfer student from TCC, where he worked at the student newspaper, The Collegian, and his reporting has also appeared in Central Track, D Magazine, The Shorthorn and other Texas news outlets.