Symposium helps celebrate launch of LGBTQ Studies program

Reagan Ritterbush

Camaraderie, conversation and collaboration. These are just a few words guiding the new LGBTQ Studies program at UT, which celebrated its launch with a Queer Camaraderie symposium.

The symposium, which began last night and continues today, will feature professors and researchers at UT and across the country, all with an interest in telling the history of the LGBTQ community.

Kim TallBear, a professor at the University of Alberta, started the symposium off with a reading of poetry by members of the LGBTQ community about their experiences.

“I’ve found that a lot of the time, the LGBTQ community has been defined by those who don’t understand it,” Tallbear said. “This LGBTQ community needs to be able to define themselves.”

Zhao Lei, communication studies Ph.D. student, said she attended the symposium in hopes of learning more about the history of the LGBTQ community.

“All this relates to is civil rights and LGBTQ’s existence in the world,” Lei said. “We can’t understand unless we know its history.”

The LGBTQ Studies program, housed in the Center of Woman and Gender Studies, was created in an effort to build on the success of the LGBTQ/Sexualities research cluster and expand the presence of LGBTQ studies on campus.

The LGBTQ research cluster was created in 2004 for faculty and students to share research on feminist and queer studies. Over the past 14 years, faculty members have pushed for status as a program, in order to develop a curriculum around LGBTQ studies. This semester, that program finally came to fruition.

“It’s been a long road coming and the waiting hasn’t been easy,” said Lisa Moore, American and English literature professor and contributor to the development of the program.

According to the program’s website, its new status places the program’s faculty in a position to contribute to establishing a LGBTQ-friendly and gender-inclusive campus.

“I think this is the perfect time to be starting this program,” Moore said. “The people behind it are perfect.”

Some of the courses created through this program include Gay and Lesbian Literature and Culture, Confronting LGBTQ Oppression and Beyoncé Feminism and Rihanna Womanism.

The program plans to form strong partnerships with other new departments, including African and African diaspora studies and Asian American studies, in order to build support against racial injustice on UT, according to the program’s website.

“This is not my program,” said Sue Heinzelman, one of the directors for the Center of Woman and Gender Studies. “It’s your program, our program, the University’s program.”