HBCU’s Better Recognize Black TBLG Students Exist

One of the issues we discussed during the just concluded Texas Transgender Non-Discrimination Summit was the lack of LGBT centers on Texas colleges and university campuses.   There’s one at Texas A&M, UT-Austin, and a part time one at the University of Houston and they narrowly survived an attempt by our conservafool legislators to cut their funding.

However sad that data point is of three TBLG collegiate centers in the Lone Star State, the reality is there are more on campus LGBT centers in red state Texas than in all of the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) put together.  That’s disgusting considering it’s not a 21st century phenomenon that Black GLBT students exist. 

There are two major HBCU’s here in Prairie View A&M, just northwest of Houston which is part of the Texas A&M University system and Texas Southern University here in H-town.  PVAMU doesn’t have one and neither does TSU, which is mere blocks from the University of Houston main campus despite increasing numbers of LGBT students on their campuses.  .       . 

Out of the 105 HBCU’s across the nation, only one has opened an LGBT center on its campus and that just happened this year.  

The university that made this interesting piece of Black history happen is Bowie State University in Bowie, MD.   After working on it since 2007 BSU opened its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Allies (LGBTQI and Allies) Resource Center.on April 2.

It’s not like HBCU’s have existed in the 20th and early 21st centuries without chocolate rainbow people matriculating on their campuses.  All of them at one time or another, including elite HBCU campuses such as Morehouse, Spelman and Howard are aware they have or had SGL students in their midst and TBLG alums they solicit for donations.  

Ignoring the issues that impact current SGL and trans students on those HBCU campuses won’t make them go away, get those GLBT alums and their supportive allies to write those donation checks or help them draw future Black GLBT students to their campuses.    

Morehouse College sadly has been a poster child for the head in the sand approach on TBLG issues.  Throughout  the 80’s and 90’s it was on the Princeton Review’s Top 20 Most Homophobic campuses list, had an ugly 2002 on campus gay bashing incident ,had two employees fired after homophobic e-mail rants surfaced in reaction to a gay wedding photo and passed a controversial phobic dress code

The Robert Champion hazing death case that blew up on the Florida A&M campus in November 2011 has caused the resignation of its president, resulted in third degree felony indictments of 13 students and caused its world famous Marching 100 Band to be placed on indefinite suspension.

As National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director/CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks noted in a press release discussing the Champion case and HBCU’s, “These institutions develop many of our future leaders but fail to create safe and nurturing environments for all of our young people to thrive. Combined with legal protections, cultural shifts on these campuses are needed to literally save lives. Our work doesn’t end here.”

Be interesting to see what NBJC has planned in order to help HBCU’s get up to speed protecting our TBLG young people who proudly attend these institutions. 

The Champion case is also a warning to HBCU’s that they need to get busy proactively tackling the issues of homophobia and transphobia on their campuses.  If they don’t, they will discover that ignoring those issues will cost them serious money down the line either in lawsuits or lost revenue because SGL and trans students aren’t going away or in the closet.

As bad as HBCU’s have been on gay and lesbian issues, gender identity and trans issues on HBCU campuses have probably moved at a glacial pace since Sharon Franklin Brown’s well publicized 1995 case.   In light of the fact their white collegiate counterparts are making consistent strides on transgender issues, it’s past time for HBCU’s to get in the game and get up to speed on trans issues as quickly as possible.  

HBCU’s can begin that recognition process by not only opening LGBT centers on their campuses, they can add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression language to institutional non-discrimination statements and employment policies.   Most importantly once they do so, they need to be enforced. 

HBCU’s need to send the unmistakable message to their faculty, current and future students, alumni, and the communities they serve that discrimination against LGBT students on HBCU campuses will not be tolerated, they have inclusive and welcoming campuses, and they are willing to include LGBT students in their ongoing missions to uplift the race through educational achievement.

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