A vigil for Blake Brockington was held Friday night at the star quad. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

Blake Brockington walked the UNC Charlotte campus open and proud of who he was.

He was a role model for the transgender community, regularly participating and speaking at rallies, and was crowned North Carolina’s first transgender homecoming king at East Mecklenburg High School.

Yet, his friends still laid flowers down in front of his picture Friday night at the star quad. They still lit candles and spoke kind words of him. They still cried and comforted each other and stood silently, mourning his death.

Brockington chose to end his life three years ago.

His death serves as a reminder of the struggles people in the LGBTQ+ community face, often discriminated against and ostracized.

Three years after his death, a group of students are requesting a space on campus that can provide resources and support to the university’s LGBTQ+ community.

The UNC Charlotte LGBTQ+ Coalition was formed to campaign for the LGBTQ+ Center. They got the Student Government Association (SGA) on board. SGA passed legislation March 1 that approved the center, which doesn’t ensure the center will be created but communicates to university administration the center is wanted by students.

“We hope to have space secured for the LGBTQIA Resource Center by the end of our term,” said Bryan McCollom, student body vice president.

The coalition is hoping the space will be put in Cone, preferably and envisions it will have resources for students. They specifically want to partner with Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

“I feel and I want it to be a space where anybody who is struggling, like Blake, is able to come in and see that they are welcome and that they’re in community,” said Clover Barin, a member of the coalition.

Other schools have spaces like this, including Appalachian State, East Carolina University, North Carolina Central and NC State.

An online petition titled “UNCC Needs an LGBTQ Center” has over 1,000 signatures. Many students and faculty have voiced their support in the comments.

“I believe LGBTQIA+ students (including ally’s) on campus should have a place to be themselves with students on the spectrum and promote inclusion and diversity,” wrote Junior Estevan Torres. “This is the step in the right direction to promote community.”

Michael Denton, who was UNC Charlotte’s assistant director of new students and academic programs from 2003 to 2010, wrote: “Students deserve a space where they can be themselves freely and in safety. North Carolina, Charlotte and our country is still very hostile to queer people despite limited gains. I implore you to be an institution even more welcoming, affirming and contributing to LGBTQ+ students lives and academics.”

“This is important,” wrote Kara Stephens. “Everyone deserves to feel safe.”

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Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' managing editor. She is a senior studying Communications with a double minor in Journalism and English. Sands' work has been published in The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book on Oak Island. Reach her at managing@ninertimes.com or @alexsands_.

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