Byline: Serving all gender and sexual minorities including LGBTQIA+ and the two-spirit student community as well as their cisgender & heterosexual allies.
This name change will more accurately represent the educational and inclusionary efforts of the office. An attempt to represent a spectrum of identities including pansexuals, genderqueers, asexuals, and all others that are breaking the binary of a limiting description of sexual orientation and gender identity. Other higher education institutions such as the University of Illinois Chicago have renamed a few years ago. This name change will also be more inclusive of our international populations while eliminating misnaming by campus employees.
The use of the acronym “LGBTQIA+” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, genderqueer, agender, asexual) has been proliferating the last few years in an attempt to be inclusive of the vast diversity of genders and sexualities present in humanity. The office already educates the campus community about the difference between sex (male, female, intersex) and gender (woman, genderqueer, trans, transgender, man) and sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, heterosexual) and how each of these falls on a continuum instead of a binary. Within those continuums there are specific terms and they do morph over time as individuals ever explain the vast diversity of human biology and expression. The human species is not a cookie-cutter mold that everyone fits into.
The Acronym & Employee Misnaming
The use of “LGBTQA” does not accurately reflect the sexualities and genders of our student population. We could easily add other letters such as “I” for intersex as about 1 in 100 people have a sex that is not easily categorized as male or female. Another letter could be “P” as numerous students are using pansexual to describe their sexual/romantic attraction to more than two genders. These are just a few examples.
Another issue is how employees are misnaming. Imagine the challenge if we added more letters! Employees on numerous occasions seem to care less about learning how to say the office name correctly and often do in public spaces. These attempts can also include laughter as the name is brushed off as insignificant such as “LGBTABCD, [giggle giggle]”. It is not uncommon for the name to also be incorrectly spelled or a letter left off in print advertising such as posters, job titles, etc. A simple web site search at UIS.EDU would seem the course of action to figure out the correct name, but they choose not to. In Student Affairs, we make a point to make sure other offices, “Department of Residence Life” and not “Housing” for example, are correct when referred to and this name change will help to enable that.
Programs & initiatives
This proposed name change will more accurately represent the educational and inclusionary efforts of the office. This change will not effect programming as the office is already operating with inclusion in a number of ways. For example, Safe Zone educates with intent of breaking the binaries and constantly is updating terminology. The vast array of educational speakers and events over the past 7+ years have purposely covered the gamut of identities and will continue to do so. This past spring semester, the long running “Explore Yourself” support/dialogue group was morphed into two groups: “Fluidity” (to represent many possible sexualities/genders) and “Shades” to provide intentional space to discuss the intersections of race/ethnicity with sexual and gender minorities.
Our sister campus at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) changed their name to Gender & Sexuality Center a few years back for the same reason mentioned in this proposal. UIC also continues to have a Women’s Leadership & Resource Center and coordinator.
“The Gender and Sexuality Center at UIC creates a more inclusive campus and catalyzes positive social change by challenging heteronormativity and promoting deeply engaged and life affirming thinking, learning, and action.” The center “serve(S) students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members throughout Chicago of all gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations.”
The use of the acronym or labels such as “lesbian” or “gay,” can hold Western and White cultural significance for some people of color or international students. Some languages use much different labels or have none at all. Native American cultures use numerous terms such as “Two-spirit” or “Winkte”. Traditional Polynesian, Central and South American as well as Indian and African cultures use a vast variety of words that do not correspond or are not easily transferable.
I feel the change in name will help to allow everyone to feel welcome, regardless of gender or sexuality. With the previous name, many newly discovered sexual orientations and gender identities are left out. With the change, everyone including allies to the community can feel welcome in the space. – Mel Clark, Undergraduate
Changing the name of the office to Gender and Sexuality student services allows for our resource office to be more inclusive of all identities that may not get highlighted as often. Changing the name of the office will create a safe space for any identity and further validating their existence. – Adam Tomaszewski, Undergraduate
This benchmarking report explains a review of all the office and center names across the country, responses from offices that have changed their name to “Gender & Sexuality”, and compiles responses from the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals listserv. A number of institutions have or are considering a name change in order to be more inclusive of the breadth of sexual orientations and gender identities. All have consented to their responses being shared in this document.
Questions or feedback? Contact Kerry Poynter at 217-206-8316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.