On the morning of Oct. 11, you might have seen my fellow Georgetown University Pride board members and deputies chalking up Red Square as we giggled and wiped chalk off our purple “I Am” shirts, which honor the Out for Change campaign in 2007 that ultimately led to the establishment of the LGBTQ Resource Center. We chalked phrases ranging from “Trans Rights are Human Rights” to “Jack the Bulldog threw the first brick at Stonewall” surrounding a closet door in the middle of Red Square, through which myself and about 40 other Hoyas danced in a conga line that afternoon to celebrate National Coming Out Day as Diana Ross’ hit single “I’m Coming Out” blasted through Red Square. As we danced from Red Square to the steps of Healy Hall, we were cheered on by passersby, administrators and fellow Hoyas.
Hidden behind the cheers and smiles, however, is the history of OUTober, with which many Hoyas, including queer Hoyas, are unfamiliar. Though positive changes have been made by both student organizers and Georgetown’s administration, there is still much work that remains to be done before LGBTQ Hoyas can truly feel at home on the Hilltop, especially regarding the teaching of LGBTQ history at Georgetown.
LGBT History Month, known to Hoyas as OUTober, has been celebrated across the country every October for 25 years since its founding in 1994 by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson. Each year, Georgetown celebrates OUTober through programming organized by the LGBTQ Resource Center, GU Pride, Georgetown University Queer People of Color, Georgetown LGBTQ+ Mentors and Resources, and other supporting offices and student organizations.
Throughout the years, the variety of events held and number of event attendees at OUTober programming has expanded. As a co-president of GU Pride, it is both my honor and duty to partner with other clubs, the LGBTQ Resource Center and administration to provide programming for LGBTQ Hoyas throughout OUTober; by taking up this space on campus, we legitimize our presence and send a message to LGBTQ Hoyas that they have a right to not just exist, but also be celebrated on this campus.
Each year, the organizers of OUTober programming attempt to strike a balance between commemoration and celebration. We aim to recognize our history, advocate for our rights and celebrate our community. This remembrance is especially urgent now, when each day seems to bring even more bad news for our community and pride parades feel more like a big advertisement than a commemoration of a riot.
The fight for LGBTQ rights did not start at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, and it did not end with the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States in 2015. Just three days before I danced and waved my pride flag throughout Red Square, I attended a rally at the Supreme Court as landmark cases regarding whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ workers were heard; our fight is far from over. It is incredibly important that my fellow queer student leaders and I put pressure on Georgetown administration to ensure that our history is taught and celebrated on campus every year because, for many students, college is the first and only time we will be taught this history.
Currently, only four states require public schools to teach LGBTQ history, thus knowledge of the LGBTQ rights movement is fairly limited among those who do not actively seek it out on their own. Even knowledge among Hoyas of the fight for LGBTQ rights on the Hilltop is limited: Not many Hoyas realize that Georgetown was the first Catholic university to establish an LGBTQ Resource Center and the only Jesuit university to currently have one.
Georgetown certainly still has a long way to go before LGBTQ Hoyas feel not just accepted, but also comfortable and at home on the Hilltop. While a monthlong celebration is great, OUTober shouldn’t be the only time the university makes an effort to support LGBTQ Hoyas. The women’s and gender studies program at Georgetown offers courses on sexuality studies; however, institutional support for the program is limited. By providing more resources and full-time staff to this program, Georgetown could help ensure that more students have a basic understanding of LGBTQ history while also demonstrating support for sexuality studies as a legitimate academic pursuit. On a national level, more states should require that LGBTQ history be taught in public schools and should treat the fight for LGBTQ rights as integral to our country’s history. OUTober remains essential at Georgetown so that students have the opportunity to engage with the LGBTQ community and learn more about our history and what we still have to fight for.
OUTober is an indispensable reminder from student groups and the university to members of the LGBTQ community on campus — both out and closeted — that they are loved and supported and that they have people fighting for them on the Hilltop and beyond. However, there is still much institutional and cultural change that fellow leaders of student organizations and I must fight for year-round before LGBTQ Hoyas can truly feel at home on the Hilltop.
Siena Hohne is a sophomore in the College and co-president of GU Pride with Al Castillo (SFS ’22).