UT’s Gender and Sexuality Center, and Tips for LGBTQ Allies in the Classroom

By Shane Michael Gordon

gscThe Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) on the UT campus provides opportunities for any UT student and any member of the Austin community to explore, organize and promote the learning of gender and sexuality issues. The GSC has in the ten years of its existence made strong efforts to provide resources for anyone willing to learn and become informed of LGBTQ and women’s issues while offering outreach, education and advocacy throughout campus.

History of the GSC is rooted primarily in two organizations, the Women’s Research Center and the GLBTA Agency, formed in 1997 and 2001 respectively through the student government and headed by student directors. As the organizations’ services overlapped an agreement was formed to establish a joint center with a permanent office and full-time director. With help from the student government the Gender and Sexuality Center officially opened its doors in August 2004.

As one of its missions is to promote the understanding of the LGBTQ community, the GSC hopes to help instructors improve the classroom setting for LGBTQ students. Here are some tips for promoting a diverse, inclusive and respectful learning environment:

  • Do not immediately assume everyone in the classroom is heterosexual or traditionally gendered, as this assumption can segue into students making anti-LGBTQ remarks just because of an alleged “absence” of LBGTQ students.
  • Do use inclusive language in your syllabi, presentations and whenever possible, such as discussing civil unions as well as marriage and using the term “parent” in lieu of mother and father.
  • Do not make negative remarks or jokes aimed toward LGBTQ people.
  • Do work to set an example of proper conduct for students, especially if you encounter a biased remark, as this can be an important opportunity to set the facts straight about the LGBTQ community, along with promoting understanding while actively dialoguing with students to create an accepting and non-judgmental classroom environment.

The GSC is currently headed by its director Ixchel Rosal (rosal@austin.utexas.edu) with education coordinator Shane Whalley (swhalley@austin.utexas.edu) and program coordinator Liz Elsen (liz.elsen@austin.utexas.edu). As the Center prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary it plans to continue the work it has been doing while expanding its programs throughout both the campus and the community.

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