by Adrienne Hunter
Fifteen years ago, a group of students in the Queer Student Alliance (now known as the Queer and Trans Student Alliance), were frustrated with the lack of inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ students on campus. As a result, they decided to write The State of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, an over 150-page, detailed report on the issues affecting queer students on campus, as well as solutions for these issues.
The report, which was released in 2006 and conducted through the Institutional Review Board, contained information from a survey completed by over 100 LGBTQIA+ students. Over many months, the Queer Student Alliance members worked with students, faculty, and staff throughout UT to undergo detailed research and create innovative yet practical solutions.
For example, the report did a thorough search of restrooms and compiled a list of every restroom on campus that could be easily converted into a gender-inclusive restroom. The report advocated for over 50 recommendations, including accessible gender-inclusive housing, an LGBTQ Studies program, and more gender-inclusive restrooms. One recommendation even called for an LGBTQ+ Culture committee with UT’s Campus Events + Entertainment.
The many recommendations were sprawled across 6 chapters: Expectations, Coming out, and Safety; Experiences with Transgender Communities and Gender Identity and Expression; Experiences with Students and Student-Centered communities; Experiences with Faculty and Staff; Experiences with Campus Resources; Experiences with LGBTQ Communities.
While six of the people who worked on the report were credited as writers, this research endeavor involved many more. Of the writers, including William Lyons and Dr. Ryan Miller, many of them have gone on to continue work in queer advocacy today.
While this report led to much progress, it was unsurprisingly quite controversial at the time. Many students publicly displayed frustrations with the report in The Daily Texan. One student wrote that the report contains poor recommendations that do not make sense, saying “No amount of money or special considerations will make a group feel more included. The only way to make someone feel equal is to treat that person like everyone else.”
While this report was instrumental in achieving major accomplishments on campus, such as the eventual creation the LGBTQ Studies Program at UT in 2017, many of the recommendations have still not been achieved by the university, notably regarding accessible gender-inclusive housing.
Almost 15 years after the report’s 2006 release, I am part of a group of 11 LGBTQIA+ students (and more to come) from organizations all around campus, not just QTSA. We agree that an updated report is called for, given how much the queer landscape has changed since 2006.
From the beginning, we committed to making our new report as intersectional in its research and recommendations as possible, as well as accounting for many new problems that have arisen since 2006. As of now, the group has decided to divide the research for this new report into five sections: policing, student-centered spaces, faculty and staff, academics, and student resources.
The writing of the report is currently underway, and our team is hoping to release it by the end of Spring 2021. The research consists primarily of a survey sent to the student body that has been completed by over 2,200 students.
At the end of the day, while The University of Texas continues to ignore the needs of many LGBTQIA+ students and other marginalized groups, this project is being revived set an important precedent for what students can do through organizing and making their voices heard.
Adrienne Hunter (they/she) is an undergraduate student pursuing majors in Radio-Television-Film. Women’s & Gender Studies, and Anthropology, as well as certificates in LGBTQ Studies and Creative Writing. They are the co-director of The Queer & Trans Student Alliance, the co-chair of the communications committee in The Senate of College Councils, and a member of Texas Orange Jackets. Their research interests center around narrative empowerment and queer & trans folks.