Each year, when the calendar strikes June, corporations across the globe rebrand their image to incorporate rainbow themes and other symbols that represent the LGTBQ+ community. While celebrating the queer community during Pride month is a phenomenal way to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ+ individuals, the fight for equal rights and representation continues to take place in all corners of the world. The queer community at Penn State has played an integral role in shaping the history of the university, but the extensive chronology of Penn State’s LBGTQ+ presence has often gone unrecognized. VALLEY decided to explore the rich and storied history of the LGTBQ+ community at Penn State, considering the impact of the past and delving into the possibilities that encompass the future.
The June 1969 Stonewall Uprising, also known as the Stonewall Riots, took place in New York City when police in Lower Manhattan began to aggressively target the queer community. In response to this shift, many queer individuals — and allies — started to riot against the oppression and violence that often plagued the LGBTQ+ community. These riots are widely regarded as one of the most foundational components in the commencement of modern-day queer activism. Two years after the Stonewall Uprising took place, queer students at University Park created an organization called The Homophiles of Penn State. The organization, also known as HOPS, served to cultivate a safe space for Penn State students who found themselves somewhere outside of the binary when it came to their sexual identity. Following the founding of HOPS in 1971, members of the organization faced considerable controversy in their efforts to receive approval for their charter incorporation at University Park.
The LGBTQ+ community at Penn State continued to face substantial levels of controversy and adversity in their quest to achieve greater levels of representation and equity. However, a bright spot in their journey appeared when the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity was founded in 2001. Having served as a beacon of refuge, representation and equity for Penn State students for over two decades, the CSGD encourages the Penn State community as a whole to embrace identities which fall outside of the binary. Beyond its undeniable presence as a safe space for queer students, the CSGD also challenges students at University Park to critically analyze their biases, celebrate uniqueness and raise their voices in the ongoing fight for justice.
Several times a year, the CSGD hosts events to celebrate the presence of the LGBTQ+ community at Penn State and encourage individuals to get involved in the fight for equality, representation and equity. Have you ever attended an event hosted by the CSGD? Share your experiences with us on Instagram @VALLEYmag!