Several people are sitting on the floor in a room around around a big Pride flag drawing figures on it.

UMSL students and allies attended the LGBTQ+ History Month kickoff event sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement and decorated and made their own Pride flags. (Photos by Wendy Todd)

Music played in the Fireside Lounge on the second floor of the Millennium Student Center as about 40 members of the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ LGBTQ+ community and allies gathered for an LGB(tea)Q+ event.

They socialized, decorated pride flags and enjoyed refreshments, including tea, as new and continuing students made connections and worked to create a supportive community to discuss important queer issues on campus.

It was all part of an event hosted by the Office of Student Involvement to kick off UMSL’s observance of LGBTQ+ History Month, which takes place throughout October.

There also were two representatives from the tech company Accenture on hand to talk about opportunities at the organization.

Students not only understood the significance of recognizing LGBTQ+ History Month but also felt it was important to do so on campus to amplify the community and have a presence at the university so members don’t feel isolated.

Freshman business administration major Stacy Brown longed to connect with others in the queer community on campus and thought the event was the perfect place to start.

“I just wanted to meet new people, people like me, because I don’t really see people like me often, especially when I was in high school,” Brown said. “College gave me more perspective on different things.”

Brown came out two years ago and has found college to be an environment that’s more tolerant of her identity as a gay, Black woman. As she’s experienced more acceptance from others, she’s worked on accepting herself.

“In high school, it was kind of hard for people,” she said. “They had opinions about stuff. As I went on, I stopped caring about what people think and just wanted to be happy and be myself. I’m OK now.”

Fun and inclusive stickers were on hand for participants.

Maura Hill, also a freshman, is happy that she’s made friends who identify as LGBTQ+ on campus and invited them to the event. Like Brown, she also feels it’s easier to be her authentic self in college and is looking to build connections at UMSL, an environment that’s made her feel comfortable in her identity.

“At high school, it felt kind of hard to talk about sexuality,” she said. “But when I come here, I feel like it’s OK. It’s encouraged to be yourself. It’s encouraged to talk to people and be out and proud.”

She appreciates that the university has recognized LGBTQ+ History Month.

“I like that there’s a whole month with a bunch of fun events,” she said. “This is wonderful. I think it’s cool.”

Dakota Miller, the diversity and LGBTQ+ coordinator for the Office of Student Involvement, was intentional about keeping inclusivity at the center of the events planned for the month so that everyone, including those outside the queer community, could participate in the celebration, culture and contribution of the LGBTQ+ community to the country.

“I wanted to create a diverse set of programming that was geared towards all kinds of students,” Miller said. “I created programming that’s both during class periods and later in the day so students who maybe have full-time jobs can also attend. I also created programming that’s online with subtitles to provide equitable access.”

Equity is another reason why celebrating LGBTQ+ history on campus and bringing awareness to queer issues is important. Miller noted that there are over 500 pieces of legislation across the country that target the queer population, preventing access to health care, trans health care education and challenging marriage rights.

Along with inclusivity and equity being major themes of the events of LGTBQ+ History Month, representation is also an important aspect of the national celebration. History major Tyler Winter appreciates the university providing an opportunity for the queer community to not only be celebrated on campus but also to be even more visible.

“UMSL in general is a pretty welcoming community, but it’s more about representation,” he said. “I think the university does, to an extent, what they can to support us – obviously, more trans health care resources will always be great – but I think in general, there’s a lot of good support there. I think representation is super important though. I have a lot of classes I walk into where I can tell I’m only one of the few queer people in the class.”

In lieu of Pride Month, which happens over the summer, the celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month at UMSL makes Winter feel the university has made an inclusive space for the queer community on campus.

“Pride Month isn’t going to be celebrated on campus, so it’s cool to have an event where we can connect, especially with something that recognizes our history and that can be more academically inclined,” he said. “It’s cool to see that.”

More events for LGBTQ+ History Month can be viewed in the calendar below.


Wendy Todd

Wendy Todd