On June 15, in the middle of Pride Month 2022, the university’s Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) Director Julián Cancino and University Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lee Bitsóí sent an email to the Brandeis community reaffirming Brandeis’ commitment to supporting LGBTQ students. In the email, the administrators acknowledge that the university has “come a long way in embracing the LGBTQ community.”
“We believe that who you love or who you are should not be a barrier to education or employment,” read the email sent to community members.
Cancino and Bitsóí explained that only 50 years ago, “LGBTQ people could not marry whomever they wanted, could not pursue a profession of their choice, were often imprisoned in jails and mental health institutions, and were persecuted for gathering in public places.”
The message to the Brandeis community also mentioned the first Pride parade, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City after “police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, dragging employees and patrons out of the bar, arresting numerous people – guilty for being who they are. Rather than dispersing or being passive bystanders, hundreds of neighbors and patrons were incited to act. The uprising lasted six days.”
However, the email reminds Brandeisians that Stonewall was not the last battle for equality for LGBTQ individuals. “Today, participating in and supporting Pride events is a way to counter the laws and stereotypes that still deny LGBTQ people protections and opportunities in every area of daily life. In 2022, hundreds of bills criminalize parents for obtaining essential medical care for their children, exclude students from playing in school sports, and restrict access to inclusive education. Older adults experience high rates of discrimination in long-term care facilities and police continue to arrest transgender women of color,” the email said.
The email also mentions the specific steps Brandeis has taken to support its LGBTQ students and faculty. Cancino and Bitsóí brought up the creation of the Faculty and Staff Pride Alliance, the broadening of the nondiscrimination policy to include protections for transgender people, the establishment of the GSC and the launch of the Pride Reps program as examples of Brandeis’s commitment to supporting its LGBTQ community members. According to the GSC webpage, the university currently has nine undergraduate pride reps.
Cancino and Bitsóí also addressed the university’s history of engaging in conversations for equality for LGBTQ people, according to the email. The university, according to Cancino and Bitsóí, first began these conversations in the 1950s. The conversations continued and turned into action in the 1970s when students marched the Brandeis Banner at the March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights, according to the email.
It wasn’t until the ’90s that the university created its Faculty and Staff Pride Alliance (BFSPA) which is a group that is open to members of the faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQIA, according to their webpage. The group offers a “peer network that supports the LGBTQIA community on campus,” according to the page. In the 2000s, the university established its nondiscrimination policy which was broadened to include protections for transgender people, according to the email.
In the email, Cancino and Bitsóí noted that while they are “proud of the inroads” the university has already made, they still “aspire” to break down more barriers and work towards equality.