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Celebrating pride and beyond: The Gender and Sexuality Center at UIC

A plot of flowers with a UIC LGBTQ pride flag in front.

The UIC Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), located in the Behavioral Sciences Building (BSB), is a center built on LGBTQIA+ inclusive excellence. Dedicated to inspiring profoundly involved and life-affirming thinking, learning and action within students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community, the GSC aims to foster inclusivity on campus and accelerate constructive social transformation globally through various activities, events, seminars and projects.

The GSC is one of the seven Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change (CCUSC) at UIC, maintained via academic affairs and housed under the office of diversity. This placement emphasizes how crucial the GSC is to creating a welcoming and diverse campus community, highlighted by their commitment to providing assistance to anyone who identifies as any sexuality, gender expression or identity.

One of the GSC’s major partnerships is with the UIC Counseling Center, which provides students with closed, online therapy groups specializing in the experiences of diverse sexuality and gender-identified individuals. These campus units empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQIA+) and trans, non-binary and gender expansive (TGNBE) students by offering a secure environment in which they can explore their identities while receiving mental health support and resources.

In addition to these therapy groups, the GSC hosts specific check-in meetings for a-spectrum (asexual and aromantic) campus community members, QTBIPOC (queer, trans, black, indigenous people of color) community members and TGNCNB (transgender, gender nonconforming and non-binary) community members.

The GSC works to promote intersectional campus advocacy through its support of and collaboration with the other cultural centers and community organizations in bringing diverse LGBTQIA+ programming and events to campus. During the past academic year, these events and programming included “Trans Organizing 101: How to Organize in a Blue State,” “Tanty Feminisms: Queer of Color Archives, Afro-Asian Intimacies and the Erotics of Post-Indenture,” the Horror Kiki Ball, “I Exist: An Asexuality Dialogue,” the UIC Queer Kickback, and “Palestine, Pinkwashing, and Bodily Autonomy.” They also hold space for annual LGBTQIA+ dates of observation such as Bisexual Awareness Week (September 16 – 23), National Coming Out Day (October 11), Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), World AIDS Day (December 1), Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31), Lesbian Visibility Day (April 26) and Pansexual and Pan-romantic Visibility Day (May 24).

The GSC’s yearly calendar culminates in May with the Lavender Graduation–an accessible, sustainable and intimate graduation experience which features regalia gifts and a digital keynote presentation–and their June community picnic in celebration of Pride Month. The 2024 Lavender Graduation keynote speaker was Jacob “Jay” Mueller, the first employee hired to the Gender and Sexuality Center in 1995 (then the UIC Office of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns (OGLBC)). With this honor, Mueller–who retired from the university at the end of May–commemorated his more than 30-year career at UIC as a mentor, advocate and role model for LGBTQIA+ students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

As Pride Month comes to a close, the GSC persists as an oasis of support, advocacy and celebration for the LGBTQIA+ community at UIC and beyond, committed to embracing the complex and dynamic multitudes of sexuality and gender identity and expression in the world and inspiring everyone to realize their greatest and most authentic potential.