We are in the heart of Pride Month at MU, and we certainly have a lot reasons to be proud.
Our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students have made strides so impactful in the past year alone that they have changed our university in ways that will last long after they have graduated.
In the fall, Josie Herrera, a genderqueer senior, ran for homecoming king and brought a wave of inclusivity to our campus and returning alumni. Shane Stinson, a transgender junior, chose to openly document his transition and has used the media as a means of starting a conversation about what it means to be transgender. Michael Sam made history with his decision to come out right before the NFL combine, which put him on course to become the NFL’s first openly gay player.
And of course there is everyone in between — the first-time performers in the “Let’s Get Loud” Drag Show, the veteran participants in Queer Monologues, the MU LGBTQ Resource Center staff, the Catalyst Award winners and the Lavender Graduation seniors — who have all helped make our university the most inclusive it has ever been.
Buzzfeed even took notice and wrote an article titled “9 Ways Mizzou Stands With Sam,” which lists the things we should be proud of — Herrera, Stinson, Sam, an LGBT-specific Alternative Spring Break, LGBT-identified Missouri Students Association and Panhellenic Association presidents, a student body that defends its own and a university more than willing to lead change.
But reading over that list, I cannot help but notice all the things still missing.
Gender identity is not included in our school’s nondiscrimination policy, and gender-neutral housing, which would greatly impact our transgender and queer students, remains unavailable. Our updated course evaluation forms reveal our school’s apparent lack of education on the transgender community. There is still no easy way for gender non-conforming students to change their name on myZou.
The Stand With Sam rally saw thousands of students link arms in solidarity, but the Facebook event choose to focus on school spirit more than LGBT inclusion. And even Buzzfeed’s list of ways we stood together doesn’t necessarily offer an accurate reflection of how Missouri treats its LGBT-identified students.
The reason I keep pushing the boundaries of Missouri’s inclusivity because I can see all the potential our university has if I keep doing so — if we strive to be not only the most welcoming school for LGBT students in the Southeastern Conference but in the nation. All we have already done shows we certainly have the means, now we just need to solidify the way. And hopefully, in a year’s time, when we are celebrating Pride Month once more, we can look back and have even more reasons to be proud.