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The Gay Tree: Looking back at LGBTQ student life

image of tree

Some 10 years before the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) opened its doors in the fall of 2004, there was a tree. Located on the West Mall near the Texas Union, the tree, known by those who congregated under it as the “Gay Tree,” served as the unofficial meeting place for the LGBTQA+ community and its friends and allies.

Under the tree’s branches, students would come together in a welcoming place, where they could build a community during their time here on campus.

“I loved seeing these students make their own space,” says UT Austin alumnus Ron Bowdoin (B.F.A, Studio Art, ’93), who is the art director for the DDCE. “They built a place where they could hang out and where they could identify with themselves and others and not be fearful.”

In time, the tree was replaced and the wood decking that surrounded it was removed. Visitors today who sit on the limestone wall that surrounds the space know nothing of the community that once gathered at that spot. But the roots of the Gay Tree run deep within the GSC, a hub of student activity and support for the LGBTQA+ community.