Pride Month Celebrates USF’s LGBTQ+ Community I USF News
June is Pride Month, a celebration that recognizes the impact of the LGBTQ+ community. The month also focuses on the important and ongoing work to achieve justice and equal opportunity for Americans who identify as LGBTQ+, an inclusive acronym that represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or transgender community. questioning. The “+” symbol is intended to recognize identities that are not specifically represented in the acronym.
Pride Month was originally inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a series of protests by members of the gay community sparked by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. The raid and subsequent riots mark the beginning of the gay rights movement. The first Pride march in New York took place on June 28, 1970, the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
The University of South Florida is proud to support its LBGTQ+ community during Pride Month and throughout the year with an active network of organizations that host events, provide resources, and work to serve and support these communities.
The Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues (CISOGI) advises the USF President on issues that affect the LBGTQ+ community. The committee’s goal is to support LGBTQ+ individuals and communities at USF by recognizing achievement, increasing visibility, sharing information, and improving relationships. The committee, whose members are appointed by the president, also advocates for meaningful policy change, resource allocation, and training to maintain a thriving and diverse community of students, staff, faculty, and professionals. alumni and LGBTQ+ community partners. Among their efforts this year was work to expand the inclusiveness of the university policy that would allow students to use the name of their choice on ID cards and other identification documents.
CISOGI also promotes USF’s inclusive environment to the wider community, often by participating in area pride and cultural events and connecting with organizations such as the Tampa Bay LGBT Room.
“There is a lot of work to be done and having a committee at USF that reports directly to the president signals commitment and will,” said CISOGI President Michael Rogers. “This indicates the importance of the LGBTQ+ community within USF and the desire to ensure that all LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and included. For anyone interested in how change happens at the organizational level, I encourage them to get involved.
CISOGI is also proud to be one of USF’s sponsors lavender ceremonyan annual event celebrating LGBTQ+ graduate students. Lavender Graduation Ceremonies are held on many campuses across the United States to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied students and to recognize their achievements and contributions to their college community.
USF’s first Lavender Ceremony was held in 2019 with 50 students in attendance. This year’s ceremony, held on April 13, recognized 117 graduates, the highest number to date. During the event, Pride Awards are presented to recognize allies for their support of the community.
Also organizing the event and working closely with CISOGI, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is home to more than 50 cultural or identity student organizations, including those representing USF’s diverse LGBTQ+ community. OMA programming includes the Stonewall Suites residential learning community and the Safe Zone training program, a four-part workshop available to all USF students, faculty, and staff.
OMA also partners with the wider community, delivering a message of support and inclusion. During October, LGBTQ+ History Month, the campus and community partners at OMA and Tampa are hosting a series of events to celebrate and educate the campus community about social justice and civil rights issues related to the LGBTQ+ community. For Pride Month, the OMA oversees USF’s annual participation in the St. Peter’s Pride Parade by purchasing a block of tickets and participating in the parade. This year’s parade is set for June 25 and marks the 20th anniversary of St. Pete Pride events.
The USF LGBTQ+ Alumni Society is an active extension of the university’s community outreach. Co-chairs Todd St. John-Fulton and Robert Wallace agree that USF’s support of the alumni society reflects an ongoing commitment to diversity and student success.
The USF Alumni Association also supports a scholarship for LGBTQ+ studentsthat St. John-Fulton and her husband, Stephen, are proud to support.
“We know that LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to college,” St. John-Fulton said. “Between homelessness and other challenges, these scholarships are extremely important.”
Wallace believes engaged alumni can also help today’s students by providing mentorship and exposure as role models, especially as they enter the workforce.
“When I graduated, I was told that joining the LGBT alumni group would hurt my chances of getting a job,” said Wallace, a licensed professional engineer who worked at General Electric for 25 years. . “That’s no longer true, and I see USF working to bridge the gap by helping new graduates connect with mentors who have been around the world.”
While much of the work to support LGBTQ+ pride looks to the future, current student Emma Frank was inspired to raise the profile of the LGBTQ+ community through a historical perspective. As a digital humanities intern at USF Libraries, Frank’s interest in queer fiction eventually led her to create a digital exhibit that investigates themes and events in queer history and literature. . The online exhibition, “Queer life and literature in the 19th century”was created using StoryMap, a software application that became widely used to share digital content during the pandemic when in-person access to library collections was limited.
The exhibit is part of the Libraries’ Special Collections, which include more than two dozen archival collections and thousands of volumes of monographs and journals written about or by the LGBTQ+ community. Major themes throughout LGBTQ+ collections include identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender studies, feminism, activism, and legal rights.
Frank, a double major in English Literature and History with a minor in Queer and Sexuality Studies, says literature played an important role in her own coming out process as well as determining her academic path.
“When I first decided I wanted to go to school to study English, I had just read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, which is one of the heralded texts of queer literature that is also classic literature,” Frank said. “I loved it, and I loved having the chance to talk about it and research it.”
At USF, Frank’s decision to combine courses in history, literature, and queer studies allowed him to develop a focus for his research on queer life in the 19th century, through the lens of literature. Frank says the work of two of his history teachers,
david johnson and Brian Connollyon gender and sexuality in American history was the basis for her decision to pursue the research that inspired her digital exhibit.
“It is stimulating and powerful to do research that affirms the idea that these identities – these emotions – have always existed. We just didn’t have the words we have now to talk about it,” Frank said. “It’s still a very understudied area of literature and literary history, but once people know about it, they really get interested in it. To have the chance to do work that makes sense and has some sort of outward value is amazing.
Frank’s Minor in Queer and Sexuality Studies was first offered at USF in 2018 and examines the rich history and cultural contributions of LGBTQ+ people as well as the processes that have structured sexual relationships in different contexts. The minor prepares students for graduate studies in Queer Studies and/or prepares them to enter the workforce with greater cultural sensitivity to the needs and issues of the LGBTQ+ community.
Diane Price Herndl, professor and head of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, which houses the minor, says the response from students has been strong.
“Students from a wide variety of backgrounds find that the minor can help them not only prepare for a diverse world, but specifically a diverse world of work where companies of all sizes are trying to figure out how to support a workforce increasingly diverse body of work in all sorts of ways,” Price Herndl said. “We’re also working to keep up with exciting developments in research as people begin to look at the important contributions of LGBTQ+ people over the centuries and the difference it makes in all sorts of areas when you look at subjects with a queer eye.”
The Department of Women and Gender Studies has a proud history of its own. In 1987, USF became the first public university in Florida to offer a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies. In the 2010-2011 academic year, the name was changed to Women’s and Gender Studies to better reflect the evolving questioning and understanding of gender identities.
“As feminist work has evolved, we have realized that gender binary understandings of the world are important, but have many effects beyond simply contributing to the oppression of women” , said Price Herndl. “Gender identities are more complex, and they really can’t be separated from other aspects of our identity (like class, race, ethnicity, sexuality or ability). Those who redesigned the department in 2009-2010 wanted to reflect this in the name.