Controversy over UT’s Acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ History Month

By Brianna Bush 

The observance highlights the achievements of 31 pioneers in the 19th and 20th centuries who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender including Women’s Suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony. Their fight for equality pushed for its commemoration in 1995 and has been celebrated ever since.

In honor of National Coming Out Day, a significant part of celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, on Oct. 11, OUTober Karaoke: An Intersectional Event was hosted by Spartan Sustained Dialogue (SSD) and The Black Student Union (BSU). 

“The mission of the event was to inform students about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people of color through sustained dialogue,” said Adachi Selas, the moderator coordinator of SSD. 

SSD is a registered student organization (RSO) that provides students with a safe space where individuals of different intersectional identities can share their experiences. The organization regularly hosts events where sustained dialogue is facilitated. 

A Student Involvement Weekly global message by The Office of Student Leadership and Engagement was sent out to the UT community featuring the event.

 Although SSD and BSU hosted the event, there has been controversy surrounding UT’s acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ History Month outside of RSO involvement.

“In my experience, the university does not make official statements on social issues unless they feel obligated,” said Selas. “We need more LGBTQ+ faculty and staff at the university that can fight for programs and recognition of the importance of the queer community to our nation’s history.”

Selas said it is then left up to the registered student organizations (RSOs), which aim to provide learning opportunities for the UT community, to create the events they want to see on campus.

“Organizations like PEACE Volunteer Center and original RSO’s attempt to fill that void and do what they can to advocate,” said Emily Huff, the director of public relations and advertising of PEACE.

PEACE provides opportunities for UT students to serve the community by volunteering and participating in individual advocacy campaigns. 

“I think that there’s an issue with the school attempting to maintain neutrality in order to appease as many people as possible,” said Huff. 

According to Huff, UT’s remaining impartial impacts underrepresented identity groups on campus.

“It’s becoming more and more necessary to take a stand on important issues,” said Huff. 

Along with organizations that are calling on the university to advocate, some UT students belonging to LGBTQ+ identity groups also do not feel that they are acknowledged. 

Sebastian Giarratana, sophomore psychology major, said it seems as though the LGBTQ+ community is not being recognized because there have not been repercussions.

“It’s hard for our society and UT to progress and make people feel comfortable because it’s never talked about or brought to the forefront of discussion,” said Giarratana. 

In regards to the recognition of LGBTQ+ History Month, the Office of Public Information received a statement by Stephanie Russell Krebs, the vice president for student affairs.

Krebs said UT programs have generally originated from student interest and have been supported by various departments to ensure it supports current student interest including inclusion programming.  

“We are looking forward to centralizing inclusion programs and support that will acknowledge and celebrate historically underrepresented groups,” said Krebs. “The LGBTQ+ community is a community we are keenly interested in supporting at a greater level.”

*This article has been edited to include the most recent comments from The University of Tampa.

Photo Courtesy of Henry Ford College.

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