The Queer and Trans Graduate Student Union at UC Santa Barbara provides safe spaces and a sense of community for graduate students in the LGBTQIA+ community.

QTGSU is dedicated to bringing access to resources and community to students. Courtesy of QTGSU

The Nexus spoke with members of the Queer and Trans Graduate Student Union’s (QTGSU) board regarding their events and advocacy throughout the past year.

Kristy Ali, a second-year linguistics doctoral student and vice president of QTGSU, wanted to find community as a queer international student and woman of color, which connected her to QTGSU.

“I was looking to be part of an organization that affirmed my identity of being a queer person and wanted to be a visible queer person of color for graduate students,” Ali said. “I really like building community amongst people so I really got involved to bring people together and make new relationships. And I think that’s what we’ve been able to do over the past year, definitely through our events.”

QTGSU held a number of social events over the past year for graduate students to be able to meet each other and bond over common struggles. Some events have included coffee hours, art events, special lunches and a transgender healthcare series. 

Second-year communication doctoral student and QTGSU President Jade Salmon elaborated on how their love for board games has sparked into biweekly game nights for students to carry connections made in QTGSU.

“For the past couple quarters I was hosting a biweekly tabletop game night because board games are a big hobby of mine,” Salmon said. “So that became kind of a thing where, among the hustle and bustle of grad school, we can all just come together for a couple hours and just play some board games together.” 

“We still developed a pretty solid base where folks are now planning game nights for themselves and are participating in those” they continued. “It’s really cool providing community for people but also giving them the space to actively be part of the community together.”

The main goal of the organization is to center events around the community and to shine a light back on students themselves. 

In an event for International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, QTGSU worked with the MultiCultural Center to encourage students to commemorate the queer stories in their own lives through an archival workshop.

“We talked about how we can talk about and preserve the memories and stories of trans people in our lives. People who are not famous, not celebrities, whose stories will not be in the archives [and] how we can start documenting our own stories and the people around us” Ali said.

QTGSU hosted a drag show highlighting student performers, with two drag coordinators hired in the fall to regularly host drag boot camps for students interested. Their work was then presented in a drag show held on April 20.

“One of the most fun, wonderful, gay things we’ve done is have this drag show,” Ali said. “We provided [students] with just the money to buy makeup and wigs and whatever else. And then basically these drag coordinators just trained them to the point where they were able to put on a show at the end of the year. And at this show it’s a really really fun time with free dinner, free drinks and some good moments.”

In addition to QTGSU’s social and educational events, Ali touched on some of the ways in which the organization helps graduate students with financial difficulties through mini grants and care packages.

“We receive amounts of organizational funding from the university and we use a lot of that to give back to grad students through the form of mini grants. Grad students have lots of financial needs whether that be for food, housing or medical expenses,” Ali said.

“Another thing that we do is provide care packages for Black grad students in solidarity with them,” she continued. “It started after the murder of George Floyd and it’s something that the organization did annually so we’re continuing that tradition of giving back to our Black grad students.”

Additionally, Salmon spoke on the impact of the United Auto Workers strike against the University of California on graduate students trying to work and afford living in California. They also elaborated on how the mini grant program was QTGSU’s contribution to helping members affected by the strike.

“In general at UCSB, it’s hard being a grad student. We can’t pretend that the strike didn’t just happen in the fall,” Salmon said. “Kristy and I were really in the frontlines of that for a while. We don’t get paid much so for QTGSU, we’re happy to give out these mini grants [to] slightly chip away at these expenses that come with living here and going here.”

QTGSU is also known to work in close collaboration with the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) at UCSB. Alex Eleazar, a third-year sociology doctoral student and QTGSU’s RCSGD liaison, also found connections in these organizations after feeling alone as a graduate student new to California.

“Most of the time, grad students are really isolated, basically you know the people in your department, you know your professors who are your mentors and other people who are maybe also getting a PhD in your program, but it can be really hard to meet other people, especially at UCSB because there’s just not that many spaces,” Eleazar said.

The RCSGD has been able to create these spaces and provide resources for students who need it. Salmon elaborated on the ways in which they personally utilize the RCSGD as well as implored others to do the same.

“I think students should really take advantage of it,” Salmon said. “An hour ago I went there because they have a supply of chest binders that folks can donate and pick up so I gave an old binder that doesn’t fit me anymore and I actually got a new one back.”

Salom said QTGSU is dedicated to continuing to bring access to resources, education, social events and community to more students as they have done thus far.

“Graduate school is such a stressful environment in general and also a lot of the time we’re just kind of sequestered and made to be just with people in our department … a lot of academia is very cisnormative [and] heteronormative,” Salmon said. “QTGSU has really been an outlet for me to find people [who have] queer identities in common so we can kind of just see each other and understand each others struggles and highs and lows.”

QTGSU holds a number of social events over the past year for graduate students. Courtesy of QTGSU

A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the May 25, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year and the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at or