Students see more inclusive future in new LGBTQ studies minor program

Brooke Sjoberg

Many students were not actually aware of the LGBTQ Studies Program until days after its launch. In fact, many more students weren’t even aware of its predecessor, a certificate-only program established in the fall of 2017.

Launched by a symposium celebrating queer camaraderie, the new transcript-recognized minor in LGBTQ studies offered by the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies has both delighted students and provoked the ire of a few Facebook users in a comment thread reacting to the program’s announcement. So far, the hecklers on Facebook are either alumni or Austin residents — but not current students.

Among students, however, the program has been well-received. Reese Brinkley, human development and family sciences sophomore, said he believes the program offers a new opportunity for specialization.

“Making it into more of a solidified minor is better (than just offering certificates), because (there are) some people who want to specialize in that sort of area,” Brinkley said. “Especially with law and making policies. If you just have a certificate, it’s not as impactful.”

In terms of representation, radio-television-film sophomore Alex believes this is a step in the right direction. Alex asked his last name not to be printed, at the risk of outing himself as transgender to someone he had not yet told.

“It definitely legitimizes it,” Alex said. “Especially when we have majors like African American Studies, Mexican American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies. Now having the LGBTQ studies minor, even though it’s not up to a full major, being upgraded from a certificate to a minor definitely legitimizes it as much as those other majors that are focused around a person’s identity are.”

Alex also said he believes the minor program was developed at just the right time. The program has actually been in the works since 2004, when the LGBTQ research cluster, which served as a space for researchers to share their findings, was created.

“I don’t think that it’s so much that they’ve taken a long time to add (the minor), as it (has) now become time to split it off,” Alex said. “Women’s and gender studies used to encompass woman and LGBT issues, but I feel like those are two very different things.”

Down Interstate Highway 35, at Texas State University, mathematics junior Yesenia Serna said she would like to see a similar program implemented at more universities. She said she is studying to be a math teacher and believes LGBTQ Studies programs could be an asset to teachers in the classroom in terms of being able to understand their students and address problems in the classroom more effectively.

“Say I had my mathematics degree, and my teaching certificate, as well as a minor in LGBTQ studies,” Serna said. “Then I could specialize with the (issues of) LGBTQ students, either if they need help or whatever it may be. Regardless of whether teachers are qualified or not, a lot of the time they kind of act like counselors because you spend so much time with the students. We spend more time at school than we do with our own parents.”

Pointing to observed levels of inclusivity in educational spaces, Serna said she believes having an LGBTQ minor could encourage better care of LGBTQ students in schools during their formative years, when they are just discovering their identities.

“I could give them actual resources, and say ‘look, here are people that identify as this,’” Serna said. “(Teachers) could even be able to talk to the counselors when they recognize specific behaviors. LGBTQ (individuals) have a higher rate of depression, and counselors are supposed to be who teachers turn to, but they’re not always qualified in that area.”

Facebook users who commented on their perceived impracticality of the minor declined the opportunity to speak with the Texan. In online comments, these users questioned the real earning potential of students participating in the program.