Gainesville has landed on several “top” lists in recent years, including for livability and as a desirable city to visit. It has a lot going for it — almost endless outdoor and wildlife-style activities, and for a city of about 130,000, restaurants and bars for the biggest appetites and thirsts. And then there’s the University of Florida, of course.
UF is one of the largest schools in the U.S. with a student enrollment surpassing 50,000. It also has an extremely active and engaged LGBTQ community, with many options for students of all stripes, acronyms and pronouns.
Pride Awareness Month took place at the school in April, which organizers bill as “… the largest LGBT student-run event series in the nation.” Organizers at PAM ran at least 19 events throughout the month that addressed LGBT issues. Many of the events were celebratory in nature as well.
SFGN lays out other options and departments at UF that exist for LGBTQ+ students and their allies here.
Multicultural and Diversity Affairs
Division of student affairs
When you consider that UF faculty, students and staff who identified as lesbian and gay were for the most part hidden until the early 1980s (because of homophobic attitudes on campus and prevailing attitudes throughout society in general) you could argue that things have come a long way.
It’s this history and the “legacy of the infamous Johns Committee” that LGBTQ Affairs cites as part of the struggle LGBTQ students faced early on.
The committee was in the State Senate. “[It] spent time between 1957 and the early 1960s at the University of Florida, attempting to identify persons who were thought to be homosexuals,” states the department’s website.
“Homosexual behavior was illegal, and committee members also believed that such persons were reprehensible and should not be part of the University of Florida,” it states.
Led by director Billy Huff and graduate assistant Maggie Anne Creegan, LGBTQ Affairs provides support, advocacy and education for LGBTQ students and the campus as a whole.
Huff said the department launched in 2004. “We have a lot of programs and events — National Coming Out Day, National Transgender Day of Remembrance and Lavender Graduation,” he said.
Huff and Creegan have 15 “student ambassadors” who help drive support for those services across campus. Their website has an extensive list of resources and programs for students to access, including for alumni, youth, and even undocumented LGBTQ+ students.
LGBTQ Affairs also organizes closed discussion groups for new students on campus, who might be “new to or questioning their own identity,” as well as for QWEN — the Queer Women Empowerment Network; QAPID — the Queer Asian Pacific Islander Desi; and HLXQ — the Hispanic and LatinX Queers.
The department hosts an LGBTQ+ speakers bureau and the Tamara Cohen LGBTQ Resource Library as well.
OUTGrad is the only other group on campus that falls under the purview of Huff and LGBTQ Affairs. The rest are student-run organizations.
OUTGrad has been in operation since late 2014. It has 333 members on its Facebook group and counting. OUTGrad is described as for “any and everyone,” but it is essentially a group for LGBTQIA+ and allied graduate students and postdocs.
It holds meetings, socials and discussion groups throughout the year.
Pride Student Union
The Pride Student Union is student-run. It regards its mission as: “ … to support and educate members of the University of Florida, allies, and surrounding communities with regards to our community's issues and concerns.”
PSU is looking out for a lot of those aforementioned acronyms. The group strives to provide and maintain an “open, safe and inclusive atmosphere” for LGBTQQIAAP students — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allied and pansexual.
The group is essentially broken down into social, educational and support categories, including the development of student leaders. PSU meets every Monday at 8 p.m.
Queer and Trans People of Color Collective
This group is another collaborative one. It consists of queer, trans, two-spirit, and gender nonconforming people of color throughout the black, indigenous, Desi, Asian and LatinX Diasporas.
QTPOC Collective is a relatively new group, as it was founded in April 2017. The reason the group cites for its creation is “[We] were tired of having to suffer through systems of whiteness and oppression within existing LGBTQ spaces and the university as a whole.”
It has about nine facilitators and meets every other Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
OutLaw at UF’s Levin College of Law is a group of LGBT+ members who “[advocate] for equal rights for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”
The group has its own “OutLaw Constitution,” holds elections (most recently April 11) and has a faculty adviser. OutLaw’s public Facebook group has almost 200 members.
Events include everything from backyard parties to hosting discussions about the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. The group is currently taking applications for “Lavender Law 2018” which takes place this summer.
Lavender Law is an LGBTQ conference and career fair in New York City where attendees learn about legal affairs affecting the LGBTQ community. The UF Levin College of Law agreed to fund a one-year membership to the LGBT Bar, a round-trip flight, and living accommodations for four students for the August event.
For more: facebook.com/groups/OutLawUF