|In celebration of the upcoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ+) Pride Month in June, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our diverse LGBTQ+ community and recommit ourselves to advancing inclusive excellence for all members of the UCI community.
This year is especially significant because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, which began on June 28, 1969, as a series of spontaneous uprisings near Christopher Street and led by gay residents and patrons of the Stonewall Inn. While a police raid was the immediate cause, the week-long uprisings reflected a refusal to tolerate the longstanding practice of police harassment and acceptance of social discrimination against gay people. The gay rights movement emerged in the next decade and the sense of urgency only intensified in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic.
By demanding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, gay people have confronted and sought to change a social order that systematically marginalized them. Laws criminalized same-sex relationships. Church and state effectively prohibited same-sex marriage. Gay people could not openly serve in the military. Without specific federal protections, many were denied jobs or fired without cause. Laws did not protect individuals from the daily reality of social discrimination and stigma that only reinforced the marginality of LGBTQ+ people. Living openly in defiance of laws and social norms was a provocative act of courage. Like the civil rights and the women’s rights movements, the gay rights movement sought to recast the boundaries of full participation in American society.
Since the Stonewall incidents, the changing landscape has been encouraging, although uneven. Recent changes include, the decriminalization of sexual relations; legalization of same-sex marriage; expansion of hospital visitation rights; the opportunity for transgender people as well as gay people to openly and proudly serve in the armed services; and the proliferation of state laws prohibiting employment and housing discrimination and protecting the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
Even with this progress, a great deal remains unfinished. Homophobia is a reality that is exacerbated by other intersectional forms of hate such as racism. Examples range from the killing of 49 people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida in 2016, to an increase in physical assaults across the country. Other concerns stem from the high rates of reported health care discrimination and poorer health outcomes. There has been a rollback of protections for transgender students and an imposition of new restrictions on transgender people serving in the armed services.
As UCI works to advance its campus commitment to inclusive excellence, I want to urge you to observe LBGTQ+ month and be an agent of change by participating in the below programs.
- Visit the Stonewall Exhibit Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, one of the most important events leading to the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, UCI presents the art exhibit “Burning Time: A Graphic Book Collaboration.” Jointly produced by Jonathan Alexander, Chancellor’s Professor of English, and Professor Antoinette LaFarge of the Department of Art, it pairs eight poems and associated panoramic paintings to bring to life the story of a young gay man arriving in New Orleans in the late 1950s to start a new life. Continuing through May 23, 2019. Viewpoint Gallery, Student Center.
- Complete SafeZone training Become an ally of the LGBTQ+ Community by taking a SafeZone training course. Visit the LGBT Resource Center for details.
By recognizing all members of our community, each of us can help achieve our campus aspiration to be a national leader and global model of inclusive excellence. I encourage you to be an active participant in helping to build and sustain a community where all expect equity, support diversity, practice inclusion and honor free speech.