History of UT’s LGBT community

Victor Trevino

1908: First openly queer professors hired at UT

English professor Lisa Moore, whose concentration is in LGBT studies, said in an email that her department has concluded that the first openly gay professors at UT were history associate professor George Forgie and French professor Robert Dawson. Moore said they were very important to both the visibility and acceptance of the queer community, offering LGBT students trust and a much needed connection to the administration.

1970: First UT gay activist group created on campus

Created by graduate student Jim Denny and his boyfriend, Leonard Lance, the Gay Liberation Front marks the first record of queer students on campus. 

However, assistant dean of students Edward Price rejected the group’s request to become an official organization due to the prevailing opinion that homosexuality was an illness. The GLF appealed the decision to the student committee, and University mental health doctors were brought in during the investigation, ultimately ruling in favor of the GLF and officially establishing it.

April 1970: First LGBT-related announcement in The Daily Texan

The GLF’s advertisement, which read, “Meeting of homos at University YMCA on the Drag, April 28,” was the first public meeting for LGBT individuals in Austin’s history and had a turnout of 25 people.

1993: First queer woman elected as Student Government president

Toni Luckett was the first black woman and first queer woman to be elected president of the Student’s Association, now called Student Government, in what was then the highest voter turnout in UT history. She was a champion of diversity, heavily advocating for the diversification of UT’s curriculum, and trying to expand educational opportunities for minorities and non-heteronormative students.

2002: GLBTA merged with Women’s Center

Newly-appointed dean of students Teresa Graham Brett and Student Government president Brian Haley campaigned for the establishment of a Gender and Sexuality Center, which the GLBTA Agency and the Women’s Center supported. They decided to merge into the GSC in order to have greater long-term sustainability and to demonstrate student interest in LGBT and women’s issues.

2004: Gender and Sexuality Center opens

Located on the second floor of the Student Activity Center, the GSC was founded as a way for members of the UT community to learn about sexuality. The GSC frequently holds events such as Feminist Fridays and its guest lecture series, “Queer Voices.”

2004: Center for Women’s and Gender Studies LGBTQ/Sexualities Research Cluster founded

Now chaired by Ann Cvetkovich, a women’s and gender studies professor, the organization aims to bring together research in queer, sexuality and feminist studies and organizes guest lectures, research presentations and pedagogy workshops.

2006: PEFSA founded

The Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association was created for employees and staff of the University, mainly to provide support and networking between UT’s numerous LGBT faculty members. Since 2008, they have awarded the Lynne Milburn Award annually to nominees who have made a positive impact on PEFSA and UT’s LGBT relations as a whole.

2014: LGBTQ/Sexualities Studies certificate established

This 18-hour certificate is designed to educate students in gender, feminist and queer studies, as well as the history of sexuality. 

2015: UT opens first inclusive LGBT sorority 

Gamma Rho Lambda’s UT chapter became the first sorority on campus oriented toward LGBT students. While the sorority is open to all students, the chapter was established in response to LGBT students feeling excluded from campus Greek life.

A year earlier, UT’s Lambda Phi Epsilon chapter was temporarily suspended because a student claimed he was not allowed to join because he was gay. 

June 2015: U.S. legalizes gay marriage

The U.S. made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. On the day the ruling was passed, Travis County issued 313 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

July 2015: UT extends benefits to same-sex partners

Six days after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, UT granted spousal benefits to same-sex couples. Staff were given 30 days after the announcement to apply for the new benefits, and it was established that future same-sex couples would have 30 days after their marriage to apply for benefits.