Diversity and Democracy

Making Excellence Inclusive: Higher Education's LGBTQ Contexts

In the past forty years, higher education has made great strides in building campus and classroom spaces that are more fully welcoming of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) people, as well as of academic explorations related to gender and sexuality. The past few years alone have seen the founding of the advocacy and support group LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, the Expanding the Circle conference on Creating an Inclusive Environment for LGBTQ Students and Studies, and new programs and courses on gender and sexuality throughout college curricula. Combined with important policy changes, initiatives like these are not only creating warmer climates for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff, but also shaping healthier environments for robust discourse among students across diverse identity groups and shifting terminologies.

Berea College
Berea College

And yet, as Warren Blumenfeld details in this issue of Diversity & Democracy, barriers to the full inclusion of LGBTQ people still exist throughout higher education. Likewise, programs and pedagogies that engage directly with questions of gender and sexuality may be located at the edges of the curriculum, implicitly marginalizing the issues and people they address. Such marginalization not only dampens the civic and educational participation of people who identify as LGBTQ, but also deprives all students of important opportunities to explore critical aspects of human experience. If higher education is to be the vibrant educational and democratic forum that society needs, it must become a safer and more welcoming place both for LGBTQ individuals and for studies of gender and sexuality. Fortunately, colleges and universities are recognizing this and implementing new programs and policies that aspire to these ends.

This issue of Diversity & Democracy explores how higher education is creating classroom and campus forums that engage with LGBTQ issues. Our authors seek answers to the following questions: What pedagogies can improve perspective taking among students while contributing to more LGBTQ-friendly climates? What programs and courses can provide opportunities for students to explore topics related to gender and sexuality? How are disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies creating pathways for students to contemplate timely and controversial topics related to LGBTQ issues? What can faculty across disciplines do to support LGBTQ students in their classrooms? The articles showcase pedagogies and programs that aim to make excellence inclusive across the spectra of gender and sexuality, making higher education more inclusive and engaging for all students in the process.

Seeking social justice for LGBTQ people is not simply a matter of improving things for the immensely diverse group of individuals who identify with that label, as Heather Hackman points out in this issue. Rather, it's a matter of creating institutions that are more just for everyone—that eschew all types of discrimination, invite investment and engagement, and offer opportunities for everyone to succeed. This issue of Diversity & Democracy provides multiple points of reflection for institutions looking for ways to engage with LGBTQ issues in various contexts.

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