By GRACE MONTES
LGBTQ+ topics are often overlooked in the education system– and sometimes entirely left out. Although courses that are specific to the community are offered at UMW, there is a discrepancy in the availability and access to them.
UMW needs more classes that educate students on LGBTQ+ topics to increase representation and to diversify students’ education.
Students at UMW are able to take courses that are broken into time periods, regions, special topics and many more. However, it is hard to find a class that exclusively highlights the LGBTQ+ community within the curriculum. Looking through the classes offered for the upcoming spring semester, students will find few to no courses specifically concerning the LGBTQ+ community. A History of Sexuality course is offered under the American studies discipline, but it is not offered for the upcoming semester.
“Looking at the courses given every semester, I only see about two classes that focus on the community, and I feel that’s an issue with students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” said sophomore psychology major Jai-Leah Garcia.
This semester, the course Queer Literature was offered underneath the English discipline. The course has two sections and covers LGBTQ+ issues in literature and the history surrounding the works covered. This course has no prerequisites and is open to any student. However, there is a problem with the fact that most classes that cover LGBTQ+ topics are not offered every semester, as students may have difficulty fitting the course in their schedule when it is finally offered.
“I think that UMW does offer some very good LGBTQ+ courses, but they are almost exclusively in the English and women and gender studies departments. As a history major, I would love to see some LGBTQ+ related courses within the history and American studies department. There are courses on African American history, women in history, and other groups, but there is a gap in LGBTQ+ history,” said senior Carolyn Stough.
Several classes centered around sexuality and the LGBTQ+ community are higher-level courses that require prerequisites, which prevents some students from being able to take them on top of their major-specific coursework and general education requirements. Having to fulfill prerequisites to access these classes feels like a burden, and it is a long road to be able to finally take a class students are passionate about.
Students come to UMW to pursue a liberal arts degree and create an educational experience that not only prepares them for their future, but also allows them to learn about other interests outside of their major. There should be easier access to these classes, as they are popular among students, and give background to a community that many students at UMW identify with.
Kate Haffey of the English department at UMW shared her experience as a professor teaching these courses.
“I think we could pay attention to the fact that classes that deal with these LGBTQ+ issues are popular among students because they fill a gap in many people’s high school education. Students want classes that deal with LGBTQ+ issues, and this becomes clear to me every semester when I teach queer literature and the course fills rather quickly, or when I am teaching WGST 101 and there is a long waitlist to get into the course,” said Haffey.
The lack of representation can be troubling for students in the LBGTQ+ community. There is great significance in being in a class that recognizes the history and importance of your community. There is the feeling of a safe space where students are free to express their own experiences and connect them with topics covered in the class. Courses that are exclusively about the LGBTQ+ community can provide insight into its history and contributions, which are usually skipped over in general history classes.
Garcia shared her experience in the course queer literature, and reported feeling a sense of belonging within the class environment as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Being someone who just recently came out, I wanted to immerse myself into the community and learn more about this new part of my life,” said Garcia. “I always feel included in the class, and I never feel as if I don’t belong because we all have been through the same struggles and many of the books that we read connect with our lives. I feel like more students should have that feeling of belonging.”
UMW needs to offer more LGBTQ+ representative classes to its students. These classes will benefit students greatly by increasing knowledge on the history and contributions of the community and cultivating a safe, inclusive environment.