As we approach Valentine’s Day, we must remember the huge problems facing the queer community. During this time that is intended to celebrate love and romance, it is integral to think about how many LGBTQ+ students may feel isolated by the popular recognition of heterosexual relationships over relationships that are not. Nevertheless, traditions put on by the LGBTQ Center help us think about the acceptance of love. One of the most fulfilling celebrations of this holiday at the University is the “Love is…” campaign put on by the LGBTQ Center every Feb. 14.
Last week, the University celebrated the grand opening of four new student centers in Newcomb Hall — the Multicultural Student Center, the LGBTQ Center, the Latinx Student Center and the Interfaith Student Center. While these spaces, both new and expanded, represent an incredible step forward for the University, it is important to remember that these are just stepping stones. Specifically, recent events have highlighted the need for further measures to protect the LGBTQ+ community on Grounds.
This past year, the University was ranked as the seventh most welcoming college or university in the country for LGBTQ+ students. Recent initiatives such as the incorporation of a transgender clinic within Student Health and the adoption of all-gender bathrooms in select locations have been crucial in terms of helping to make our community more welcoming. Furthermore, the move of the LGBTQ Center from the basement to a larger, more visible location represents the immense strides student leaders have made in creating a more welcoming community.
While significant progress has been made over the past several years, recent instances have highlighted the immense issues facing the LGBTQ+ community surrounding the University. For example, in Dec. 2019, two queer-identifying women were asked to leave by security at Asado after being spotted kissing in a booth during a private event, in spite of the fact that other heterosexual couples nearby were seen engaging in similar levels of affection. The Queer Student Union in response labelled the incident as reflective of the “history of LGBTQ+ individuals being removed and excluded from public spaces, especially bars, on the Corner.”
One week later, a mural on Beta Bridge that said, “PROTECT BLACK TRANS WOMEN” was repeatedly painted over by a series of pro-gun messages. These provocative attempts to undermine the importance of the original message made national news as it violated the longstanding tradition of civil discourse that characterized this forum for free speech. In addition to this, many members of the LGBTQ+ community were particularly outraged by this incident as trans women, especially those of color, are at an elevated risk of gun violence. In 2019 alone, at least 26 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals were killed by a firearm or other violent means according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Altogether, while the University has made significant strides over the past several years to become more welcoming toward members of the LGBTQ+ community, it is clear from these two recent incidents that there is progress that still needs to be made. Specifically, unlike many other colleges and universities, U.Va. still lacks options for first-year students to find roommates and housing options that are LGBTQ-friendly. In addition to this, there is also an apparent need for the University to expand its Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality, for which almost every course is full. Finally, above all else, there is a need to address much of the hateful and divisive rhetoric towards the LGBTQ+ community that has continued to remain present on Grounds.
Ultimately, initiatives such as the LGBTQ Center’s “Love is...” celebration remind us that love not only knows no bounds, but that regardless of our identities and backgrounds, we are all a part of this community and we are all Hoos.
The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors and their Senior Associate. The board can be reached at email@example.com.