Sexuality and Gender Acceptance Club members talk obstacles, accomplishments and aspirations at Riverside City College

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A sign shows children’s books with positive LGBTQ+ themes in them, while a collection of buttons and stickers are available free to students during the Pride mural painting event at Riverside City College on May 24. (Stephen Day | Viewpoints)
By Angie Escalante

Riverside City College’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance Club (SAGA) is dedicated to providing a safe space and family for LGBTQIA2+ students.

Joseph Contaoi has been SAGA’s president since 2020 and is also the Inter-Club Council (ICC) representative.

“I want to provide a space, like a queer space, to build a sense of community,” Contaoi said. “Get them inside queer history and get everyone more comfortable with themselves.”

Contaoi looked back on his time with the club before his presidency and acknowledged some of the advancements that have been made. 

“We finally got our student center,” Contaoi said. “It was a lot of dragging feet. I know that was going on before I even came in. Prior to being president, we wouldn’t really get a high budget … Now we get maybe like 10 times more.”

Jennifer Shaw, the vice president, has been with SAGA for about two years now. She’s also a member of the LGBTQ+ Association for Student Success and Equity (LASSE).

Next semester, Shaw will not only be the club’s next president but also the first transgender senator in the Associated Students of Riverside City College (ASRCC).

“I want to bring awareness to our community (about) our challenges,” Shaw said. “Our community is still facing a lot of challenges despite LASSE doing a lot of work at our college … Transphobia and homophobia are still going on on our campus.”

As much as support for the LGBTQIA2+ community on campus has grown over the years, Shaw said that the fight is far from over.

“The only way to get change in this school is shaming people,” Shaw said. “We have to shame the school district. We have to keep the pressure on them. Next fall I’ll be a senator in ASRCC and I’ll be an (advocate) for my community.”

Rachel Robledo has been a club member for a few weeks now and has found SAGA to be fulfilling.

“(SAGA) gave me security and a safe space and I’m grateful,” Robledo said. “I wish the school would give (SAGA) more funding so we can have more events like the drag show and overall field trips.”

Rowan Black joined the club this year and has no complaints thus far. They say they’ve enjoyed meeting more people and the activities the club has hosted.

“I always hope for it to expand and it has expanded,” Black said. “We got the new center in the MLK building. I like the track we’re on now.”

Robert Hyers has been the club’s advisor since 2018.

“I facilitate a space for queer and trans students to essentially be themselves and figure out what they want to do,” Hyers said. “I don’t run it.”

He said the LGBTQIA2+ student hours has been in the works for a long time and he’s glad it’s finally here.

“It’s a big deal and it’s a meaningful thing that LASSE got together (to make the center happen),” he said. “SAGA is a really wonderful place for students to be themselves. To me, it’s very important, almost revolutionary in a way, for marginalized students to be able to find each other and build support networks to help each other.”

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