Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month

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October is LGBTQ+ History Month, and as part of UNI’s effort to attain inclusion and diversity on campus, several events are hosted throughout the month to celebrate and inform.

“[Events like these] give people more knowledge so when they enter an experience dealing with the community, it would definitely benefit them and you can connect to them from that knowledge that you’ve learned,” said Nixson Benitez, a freshman theatre major.

While some events have already taken place — including a history display in Rod Library, several speakers and panels, a photoshoot for National Coming Out Day and two TheatreUNI performances of “Pronoun” by Evan Placey —  there are still more events to come.

The Center for Multicultural Education (CME) hosts a weekly “Hot Wings, Hot Topics” at 12 p.m. for a chance to discuss the history and significance of unseen and marginalized people. On Wednesday, Oct. 23, the event will be focused on queer and trans people of color. The week after,  on Oct. 30, the event will focus on Bi Erasure.

Safe Zone Ally Training will be held on Thursday, Oct. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the CME, for which interested participants must pre-register at lgbt.uni.edu. Also coming up this month is Drag-A-Ganza in the Maucker Union Coffeehouse on Friday, Oct. 25 beginning at 9 p.m.

This year’s Iowa Safe Schools Queer College Conference is co-sponsored by UNI Proud and will take place on UNI’s campus on Oct. 25 and 26. According to iowasafeschools.org, this conference is “the only conference of its kind dedicated to addressing the barriers and adverse conditions facing LGBTQ college students and their faculty/staff advocates.” Registration is required at iowasafeschools.org/qcc2019.

Two events that occur weekly, both during and outside of LGBTQ+ History Month, are Queer Power Hour, held every Monday at 12 p.m. in the Gender and Sexuality Services Room above Maucker Union, and UNI Proud meetings on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the the Maucker Union Oak Room.

Rocio Castrejon, a freshman majoring in sociology, said that celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month is important because the representation is essential on campus.

“The CME has papers that show the different flags of the LGBT community,” Castrejon said, encouraging students to become more educated on the different identifications of individuals in the community.

Castrejon also touched on the discrimination toward LGBTQ+ individuals in the past, specifically on UNI’s campus.

“There has been some good change since then, but we still need more change and more progress [to achieve full inclusion],” Castrejon said.

According to keynote speaker Tim Sullivan, UNI has a deep history rooted in the LGBTQ+ community, beginning in 1965 with the Gay Purge: a time in UNI’s history (then called Iowa State Teachers College) during which individuals who were gay or presumed to be gay faced hate crimes, expulsion, being fired from jobs and other acts of discrimination. There was even a push to not allow students who were suspected of being gay receive their teaching certificates.

Last Thursday’s keynote speaker, Tim Sullivan, spoke on his experience being asked to leave UNI during this purge for being gay. Sullivan and other speakers also spoke about other topics like the AIDS epidemic, sodomy laws and current successes despite decades of discrimination.

Rachel Blue, a freshman double-majoring in psychology and social work, said that this month is important to her.

“[It gives the opportunity to] shed some light on these topics in general because some people will say that they accept the whole LGBTQ+ community, but they don’t really know what it is,” she said. “They don’t understand the whole range of the community.”

Castrejon and Blue encourage students to stay open-minded this month and every month as well as attend events to educate themselves on such topics.

LGBTQ+ History Month at UNI is sponsored by the Vice President for Student Affairs, the CME, Gender & Sexuality Services, Rod Library, TheatreUNI and UNI Proud.