A history exhibit titled “Opening Doors, Outing LGBTQ History” will take a look at events from the past 60 years of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer history.
The university’s president, Dan Papp, along with other administrators will participate in the kickoff of the exhibit from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Carmichael Student Center, 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw.
It’s all part of an effort to make gay and transgender students feel safe and included on campus, said Jessica Bull Duvall, program coordinator of GLBTIQ Student Retention Services.
“We didn’t want to limit ourselves and the perception of who we help out in this office,” Duvall said, referring to the GLBTIQ acronym for which her office is named. GLBTIQ refers to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning individuals.
The history program will feature 12 doors that represent a different theme in gay history. Doors are meant to represent the past and the future.
One of the events featured will be the Stonewall riots that took place in the 1960s in New York City, said Erik Malewski, chief diversity officer in the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The riots were a violent response by the gay community to a police raid on a club frequented by transgender customers.
“Sometimes people don’t understand … that a fundamental piece of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history is the Stonewall riots,” Malewski said.
That time was a period of exclusion for gays.
“The stonewall riots kind of mark a part of history where people fought back,” Malewski said.
Other programs are also scheduled to celebrate gay history.
A theatrical production of coming out stories, called the “Coming Out Monologues,” will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Onyx Theater.
A documentary called “Paragraph 175” will be shown at 5 p.m. Oct. 24 at Prillaman 1101. The film focuses on paragraph 175 of the Nazi penal code which was used to put homosexuals in concentration camps.
This will also be the first year that Kennesaw State representatives will walk alongside the student group Kennesaw Pride Alliance in the Atlanta Pride Parade. The parade brings together gay people and straight advocates for gay rights and will take place on Oct. 12 in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.
Gay history isn’t taught in public schools and can be left out of national conversations, Duvall said, making it important for the university to “increase inclusion, a feeling of safety and belonging.”
Across the nation, more public universities are starting programs to help gay and transgender students stay safe and graduate, according to Campus Pride, a nonprofit that promotes gay inclusion at universities.
Jerome Ratchford, vice president of student success, says the university is making a more concerted effort to provide programs aimed at gay students. The GLBTIQ Student Retention Services department is about two years old and is structured in the same way as departments that serve disabled learners or minority students. All departments that serve a certain student population are funded alike — through student fees, tuition and state allocated money.
He says including gay students is a “social justice issue.”
“They pay mandatory fees, they pay tuition, and they have expectations from their independent and distinct perspective in terms of services,” Ratchford said.
Kennesaw State is a “microcosm of communities” and that helps prepare students for life after college, said Malewski, the university’s chief diversity officer.
“It also prepares our students to go out into the world and be very well prepared to work with various people from different backgrounds,” Malewski said.
Ratchford invites Cobb County residents to attend the university’s gay history programs and says it’s the school’s job to promote all kinds of learning.
“From my perspective, I see the role of a college to be engaging and inviting to all,” Ratchford said. “It doesn’t mean that one has to endorse a particular program.”