Celebrating LGBT History Month and our differences

The month of October offers FAS staff and the UT community an opportunity to learn about and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history.

According to Binta Brown, director of Diversity and Talent Management for FAS, the first celebration of LGBT history took place in Oct. 1994 in the form of a film series organized by Missouri high school teacher Rodney Wilson.

“In the 26 years since, LGBT History Month has grown, now being celebrated annually and internationally,” Brown said.

Later events have been created to bring attention to the rights and contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals. (LGBTQ+ is inclusive of individuals who identify as queer or another or no sexual identity).  National Coming Out Day takes place on Oct. 11, and Oct. 14 marks the anniversary of the first march on Washington, D.C., for LGBT rights in 1979. Spirit Day, observed on the third Thursday in October (Oct. 15 this year), was created in response to the wave of publicized suicides of gay students as a result of bullying. Solidarity Week, formerly known as Ally Week, is also observed in October; it unites and celebrates allies against LGBTQ+ bullying.

“The work of allies, activists and advocates began long before 1979, and goes on today as the LGBTQ+ community faces continued societal inequities,” Brown said.

Brown encouraged FAS staff to reflect on LGBTQ+ history and embrace how valuable diversity is to the workforce.

“We ignore differences among people to our detriment,” Brown said. “Differences should, instead, be leveraged for individual and collective growth.”

Brown offered several ways that FAS employees can learn more about themselves or about supporting their LGBTQ+ colleagues.

  • On October 22-24, attend the LGBTQ Studies and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies third biennial, first virtual Thinking Trans//Trans Thinking Conference on Oct. 22 through 24. The event is open to staff and faculty. Please RSVP if interested. 
  • Look at LBGTQ+ milestones in the U.S. for a snapshot of key events from 1924 to August 2020.
  • Watch these documentaries that tell the stories of events that have shaped the LGBTQ+ community:
    • The Times of Harvey Milk (HBO Max)
    • How to Survive a Plague (Amazon Prime)
    • Paris is Burning (iTunes)
    • The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Netflix)
    • Raid of the Rainbow Lounge (Amazon Prime)
  • Learn about Audre Lorde, the renowned feminist, lesbian, writer, poet and activist for LGBTQ+ equality, who once said in an interview, “My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds.” Find more on Audre Lorde’s work online.

FAS employees also have an opportunity to learn about another aspect of diversity—diverse abilities—by attending How to Build Inclusive Workspaces for Diverse Abilities at 10 a.m. on Oct. 29 via Zoom. Speakers include Karen Chawner, director of Human Resources Strategic Workforce Solutions; Jigna Patel, project coordinator for the Texas Center for Disabilities Studies (TCDS); Ana Canevero, TCDS loan coordinator; and Jordyn Jensen, TCDS program mentor.

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Oct. 20, 2020