The vision and generosity behind Brown’s new LGBTQ+ Center
Inspired donors and dedicated staff and students collaborated to create Stonewall House, a new campus space for community care and support that’s already having an impact.
What started with a single, part-time student coordinator position in 2004 has now become a full-fledged LGBTQ+ resource center. This past fall, those who worked to make this possible saw their vision come to fruition with the opening of Stonewall House.
Located at 22 Benevolent Street, Stonewall House is marked by the progress pride flag — a reinterpretation of the traditional rainbow pride flag with added stripes to represent trans and nonbinary identities and people of color — flying outside the renovated and fully accessible two-story building.
“I could not be happier with the new Stonewall House,” says Kelly Garrett, former director of the center who also served as the first full-time coordinator of programming and resources for LGBTQ+ students at Brown. “The architects and contractors really listened to our hopes and dreams and helped to make them come true. The new space will not only allow the center to host a variety of programs, events, and workshops, but multiple activities can take place at the same time. The spaces are flexible to meet the varied needs of the community.”
I could not be happier with the new Stonewall House. The architects and contractors really listened to our hopes and dreams and helped to make them come true.
former director of Brown's LGBTQ Center
Garrett, who spent 18 years expanding the center’s impact on campus, knows the scope of Brown’s needs well, and her advocacy, support, and policy development work were essential to Brown’s evolution into a leader in this area of student support. While at Brown, she teamed up with students, staff, and faculty to create gender-inclusive housing, improve access to gender-inclusive restrooms across campus, develop policies to support healthcare for nonbinary and transgender students, staff, and faculty, and provide educational opportunities for the Brown community on how to better support LGBTQ+ students.
“As a solo staff member in the LGBTQ+ Center, I was truly grateful for the collaboration,” she says, also noting the help of staff at the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender. “Since the very beginning, though, I shared with students and others the dream to have a dedicated house for the LGBTQ Center.”
A vision comes to life
The formation of Stonewall House was enabled by a generous gift from Katie P’21 and Brent Gledhill P’21 and their son Rowan ’21 AM’22. Their gift helped facilitate renovations, including an addition connecting the house to the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life next door, as well as an elevator to make the two-story house fully accessible to those with disabilities.
The gift was initially inspired by a meeting the Gledhills attended during Family Weekend that was held in the Glenn and Darcy Weiner Center, the campus home to Brown RISD Hillel.
“We had never been inside Brown RISD Hillel’s space,” says Katie Gledhill. “But we walked in and saw all these kids hanging out. There were programming flyers up and down the walls and different spaces for meetings and events. It really struck us how that space was being utilized. We thought, wouldn't it be great if the LGBTQ+ community had something similar?”
At the time, the LGBTQ+ Center was housed in a small third-floor office space in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. The Gledhills were introduced to the center and Kelly during a visit to campus before Rowan matriculated.
“The space was woefully inadequate for what they wanted to accomplish,” says Katie Gledhill. “When we started talking about what we could do to help the University with this, it was just a natural fit for us.”
Once the project began, Garrett and Caitlin O’Neill, the center’s current director, reached out to students about how to best design the space.
“We had a lot of flexibility as to how it would be set up,” says Katie Gledhill. “They talked with students and University administrators, and came up with ideas for making the space multifunctional so everyone would get the best use out of it.”
As a result, Stonewall House has flexible partitions that can create smaller spaces or be opened up for larger events. It also has a clothing exchange room, where the center accepts donations and allows students access to a variety of free clothes.
“This room provides a space for privacy and exploring new clothing styles as well as for programs centered on becoming more comfortable in your own skin,” says Garrett. “This was a need we heard from many students, and I think it will be a great new resource for students.”
“The creation of a permanent, brick and mortar home at Brown for the LGBTQ+ community is not only a visible acknowledgment of our presence on campus but also a significant investment by the administration in our community,” says Tyler Rubin ’99, who serves as an executive committee co-chair of the Brown Alumni Pride Association (BAPA). “Stonewall House is in a position to become a model for other universities to consider in their own plans for greater engagement and advocacy of their queer student bodies.”
“I think Stonewall House’s existence could truly be life-changing for students,” says BAPA Executive Committee Co-Chair Mara Gottlieb ’93. “It offers a safe space where students can spend their energies on creativity and intellectual pursuits instead of on the energy it takes to mask one’s identity.”
Both Garrett and the Gledhills are hopeful that Stonewall House will allow the LGBTQ+ Center to play a larger role in bringing the wider Brown community together to learn from, celebrate, and support each other.
“At the grand opening, we had several alums in their thirties and forties come up to us and say they wish they’d had something like this when they were at the university,” says Katie Gledhill. “I think Rowan always felt that Brown had the backs of the LGBTQ+ community, which in this day and age is something that nobody can take for granted. But this further tells the students that their community and their contributions are important to Brown.”