LGBT Resource Center Holds Annual Gay-la, Celebrates 20th Anniversary


Sarah Karr

VIP guests enjoy food, drinks, and the awards ceremony at the LGBT Resource Center 20-year Gay-la held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City on Oct. 29, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Karr | The Daily Utah Chronicle).

By Caelan Roberts, News Editor


The LGBT Resource Center‘s largest annual fundraiser, the Gay-la, returned to the University of Utah on Saturday. The event had a masquerade cocktail party theme and was held at the Natural History Museum of Utah. There was a VIP ceremony earlier in the night, and directly following that, a larger celebration open to those who purchased tickets.

The event serves a few different purposes for the center, said Kate Lunnen, third-year English and gender studies major and the Gay-la intern for the LGBT Resource Center.

“It’s kind of morphed into a couple of different things over the years,” they said. “But really what it’s always been and held true to is that it’s a celebration of our students and our donors, and really, just the support that the center has given to both parties throughout the years.”

Lunnen, who uses she and they pronouns, said in and out-of-state donors were invited to attend the event, as well as students who were recipients of scholarships given by the resource center. These scholars were recognized at the event, and a video was shown where they introduced themselves and thanked the donors.

“I’m really, really excited to share that video with our donor audience and share the meaningful impacts that their donations have had on the student body here,” Lunnen said. 

The Bastian Pinnacle Award was also presented at the VIP event, which was the first time the LGBT Resource Center has done the award. It is named after Bruce Bastian, who made the first major donation to the resource center, and is awarded to external community members who demonstrate commitment to LGBT students. Bastian was an honorary recipient of the award, though he could not be there in person for the event, along with Kathryn Stockton, dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the U. Stockton accepted the award, under two conditions. 

“Condition number one is, I do realize how awkward it would be for the center just to give an award to itself,” Stockton said. “So I’m just going to consider myself the conduit for the award to actually flow back to the center.” She then named many of the people she worked with at the center over the years who she felt deserved the award, such as former director of the center Kai Martinez, and Ella Blanchard, who held several different positions at the center during her time there from 2011-2019. 

“They’re the heroes of the center,” Stockton said. “They’re the ones who have made it work, and I want to honor their work in every possible way.”

The second condition was simple — that everyone in attendance decide to increase their contribution to the LGBT Resource Center that night. “And because I feel quite certain that you will, I’m going to accept this award,” Stockton said. 

Though it’s an annual event, Lunnen said the festivities were a little different this year than what guests would be used to. “It is definitely different than what people have been used to in years past, not only with the pandemic, things slowed down, of course; we weren’t able to have it in person, and last year was a very limited event,” she said. “This year, now that we’re celebrating 20 years, we’ve kind of pulled out all the stops and are really hoping to have a much larger event than we’ve ever had prior.” Lunnen added they were expecting about 350 guests at the event, which is more than any Gay-la held in the past. 

A huge part of this year’s Gay-la was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the center and the perseverance it’s had over the years.

“We’re really excited to bring together members of the community as well as students who traditionally haven’t been as represented at these sorts of events, to bring them in and really enjoy the celebration of 20 years of advocacy and love and support,” Lunnen said.

Mary Ann Villarreal, vice president for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the U, also gave a speech at the event and spoke to the progress the center has made and how it’s grown over the years.

“I originally came to the University of Utah in 2002, which was 20 years ago, and I just took it for granted that this would be a space,” she said. “What I didn’t know is that it would be a space that was newly built, that it would grow, that we would have tremendous leaders who would step in and transform the LGBT Resource Center at every turn.”

Lunnen said it’s important to hold the Gay-la every year to recognize the queer community at the U and connect them with other members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies.

“It’s really about connecting all of these incredible, amazing people, these people who donate their time, resources and energy to making a better experience for the future generations,” she said. “And then also the future generations of students who are working to make a better life and to build a better world for queer folks, and connecting these two amazing groups together in love and celebration and showing what it means to have queer joy.” 

They added that it’s crucial to show queer people on campus and in the surrounding community that they are not alone.

“Having events like these, you know, showing the people around here in Salt Lake that we do care and that this is an important issue and an important community and space to be in, really does make a difference,” they said.

Following the ceremony, the larger party began and included aerialists, tarot card readings and a drag show.


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