The History of LGBT Studies at Maryland

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Certificate Program was approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission and endorsed by the University's Board of Regents in Spring 2002. That milestone is merely the latest evidence of the University's long-standing commitment to achieving diversity in both the demographic as well as the educational sense of the word.

The LGBT Studies Program, like the programs and departments in African-American Studies, Asian American Studies, Jewish Studies, Latin-American Studies, and Women's Studies that preceded it, is part of the institution's broad and deep effort to transform curricula to reflect new developments in multicultural scholarship and to provide students with a set of educational experiences that convey some sense of the diversity of human cultures. The task of LGBT Studies is to highlight sex and gender variation as aspects of the diversity of the University community and of the knowledge generated by our faculty and students.

Courses with significant LGBT content have been taught at Maryland since the mid-1970s, when Professor Frederick Suppe first offered "Homosexuality and Morality," which eventually evolved into "Gay and Lesbian Philosophy." Throughout the 1970s LGBT issues were a focus of campus activism. Students filed suit against the Board of Regents to allow the Homophile Club to remain a recognized student organization. They also fought to get sexual orientation added to the University's new Human Relations Code (now Code on Equity, Diveristy, & Inclusion). (Chancellor Donald Langenberg approved the amendment to the Human Relations Code incorporating sexual orientation as a category protected against discrimination on June 15, 1992.) A de facto LGBT Studies "program" evolved over the years as faculty in a range of departments (e.g., Counseling and Personnel Services, English, Philosophy, and Women's Studies) developed courses out of their own research in the field.

In 1997, with the establishment of a President's Commission on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (and later Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Issues, momentum developed to formalize the program in order to heighten its visibility and to allow students to obtain an academic credential for the work they were doing. A coalition of faculty members from around the campus--in concert with Luke Jensen, the newly appointed director of LGBT Equity--worked to develop a proposal for an undergraduate certificate and to shepherd it through the lengthy process of campus and state approval. Following final approval in Spring, 2002, Provost William Destler approved the appointment of Marilee Lindemann, associate professor of English, as director of the LGBT Studies Program. The program was administered through the Office of the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of Undergraduate Studies. The first certificate in LGBT Studies was awarded to Michelle Kendrick, a Women's Studies major, who graduated in Spring, 2002 and fulfilled all the requirements for the certificate just days after it was approved. In Fall 2007 Christina Hanhardt joined the university as assistant professor of American Studies and LGBT Studies, becoming the program's first core faculty member.  She earned her PhD in American Studies at New York University and was appointed to her position in Fall, 2007. In Spring, 2008 the proposal for an undergradaute minor in LGBT Studies was approved; the first class of students awarded the minor graduated in Spring, 2010.

In Fall 2013, the administrative home of the program moved from the Office of Undergraduate Studies to the Department of Women's Studies, in the College of Arts and Humanities. LGBT Studies and Women's Studies at Maryland have a long history of collaboration, and the teaching and research interests of the two units are closely allied. Having them together administratively makes new synergies possible by combining a range of approaches to the study of sex, sexuality, and normativity on campus. Among the changes include welcoming two new faculty to the Deparment of Women's Studies who specialize in LGBT/Queer Studies. Alexis Lothian, joined us Fall 2014. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Southern California. Bobby Benedicto, will join us starting Fall 2015. He earned his PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Melbourne.

As of Spring, 2016 a total of 86 students have earned certificates in LGBT Studies, and 42 have earned minors. Representing the range of appeal for such an interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate, certificate and minor students' majors include Aerospace Engineering, American Studies, Animal Sciences, Anthropology, Biology, Communication, Community Health, Computer Science, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Dance, Economics, English, Family Science, Government and Politics, Hearing and Speech Sciences, History, Jewish Studies, Journalism, Linguistics, Marketing, Mechanical Engineering, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Spanish Language and Literature, Special Education, Theatre, and Women's Studies.