New Program Coordinator for the University’s LGBT Center Andy Cofino began working at the office over spring break. Cofino, who will replace outgoing coordinator Matthew Armstead, defines himself as a queer artist-activist and previously worked as a graduate student associate at New York University’s LGBTQ Student Center.
“I’ve been doing LGBT social justice work for a long time,” Cofino said. “I was working with higher education at NYU, and I really fell in love with the field and the work. This position is a really good fit. I really love the programming that comes out of this office.”
At NYU, Cofino was in charge of special programming that involved organizing education activities such as museum visits, working with the student health center, working with transgender inclusion policy and graphic design and social media issues.
In his work with the NYU health center, Cofino tried to educate health care providers at the university to help them understand the experiences of their transgender patients and in improving their language use and empathy.
“There have been reports from multiple universities where trans people have felt uncomfortable with the setting they have been placed in at times, especially because a lot of health centers are very focused on the gender binary,” Andrew Gonzalez, a graduate student associate who worked with Cofino at NYU, said. “I think Andy wanted to work around that and figure out what he could do for transgender students in the health care setting.”
As part of his work with undergraduate students, Cofino co-advised a student group of freshmen and transfer students called First Year Queers and Allies that held weekly lessons about LGBTQ related issues.
Cofino has also had a particular interest in using the arts to explore LGBTQ issues. As an undergraduate student, he conducted interviews with about 100 individuals identifying as LGBTQ and allies from around the world about their experiences with homophobia and transphobia. Based on these interviews, he developed his show “OUT IN THE OPEN: Stories of Queer Oppression from Empowerment.” The show uses written and spoken word poetry to highlight the subjects’ experiences. Since 2009, “OUT IN THE OPEN” has been performed at colleges and universities across the country. Selections of the show were put up at NYU as part of Cofino’s focus on the arts in addressing LGBTQ issues.
At Princeton, Cofino will also be finishing his Master of Arts in LGBTQ Studies, Social Justice and Creative Writing at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and graduating from the program in May.
“Part of the concentration [of the master’s program] is creative writing, so I’m really curious about ways that we can use the arts to talk about social identities and issues like that,” Cofino said.
Armstead, Cofino’s predecessor, said he is leaving Princeton in search of different opportunities. “I couldn’t see as many growing opportunities for myself at Princeton in that position so I looked elsewhere,” he explained.
He said he hopes to see the LGBT Center continue to provide a strong community for both students who interact with the center as well as those that never enter the LGBT Center during their time at Princeton through external programming. Additionally, Armstead said he would like this community to continue to incorporate other aspects of an individual’s identity, an emphasis that was already part of LGBT programming when he began at the position in 2009.
“One of the things that the LGBT Center traditionally has done is to really make sure that we’re always aware that there are multiple parts to students,” Armstead said. “I hope the LGBT Center programs continue to speak to multiple facets of identify, whether that is race, class, gender, nationality or identities that are more salient to campus, like being an athlete or a physics major.”
Armstead said he foresees that the LGBT Center will have to take into account the growing size of the community as it considers planning in the future.
LGBT Center Director Debra Bazarsky was unavailable for comment.