The University of Miami introduced a new minor last year.
The Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) department developed a minor in Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) studies that provides students the opportunity to delve into thinking about sexuality and these communities.
Jared Payne, president of SpectrUM, a student organization that celebrates diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, is taking a class in gender studies next semester. Payne said that he has never had the chance to study gender and sexuality before attending college.
“As a gay man, it is incredibly important to understand the complexities of gender and sexuality, which is one of many reasons why I am planning on taking a WGS course,” he said.
Breanna Munro, a professor who teaches an introductory course in LBGTQ studies, said that when she was studying for her undergraduate degree in the ‘90s, sexual minorities were never addressed as a topic for study or discussion.
“It was only when I went to grad school that I discovered queer studies,” she said. “It helped me learn about myself as a queer person.”
While Munro agrees that courses in LGBTQ Studies can help individuals like herself and Payne, who represent various sexual minorities in the LGBTQ community, she also sees the minor as attractive to anyone.
“There aren’t that many spaces in our society to have thoughtful thinking about sexuality,” Munro said, “even though sexuality is especially important to young people.”
She finds a LGBTQ minor to be rewarding because it challenges students to think about a subject from different perspectives and disciplines.
The LGBTQ Studies minor examines topics like public policy, relationships and family structures, popular culture, science and language through literature, film, fashion, history and even social media. The minor requires a minimum of 15 credits and is listed as part of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Munro said interdisciplinary studies in WGS courses, like LGBTQ studies, allow students to rethink their basic assumptions about sexuality in a culture that creates very separate, distinct gender definitions.
“Gender and sexuality are such real and important parts of [students’] lives,” she said. “We live in a very sexualized culture, so it’s important to have access to talking about it.”
Payne said that academic discussions about sexual minorities represent a shift for society in the right direction. He believes that the addition of the LGBTQ Studies minor demonstrates a critical interest in understanding and accepting the LGBTQ community.
“I definitely feel that the LGBTQ movement is the next burgeoning civil rights movement in American society,” he said. “It is reassuring that universities nationwide are taking strides in offering curriculum on the subject and providing support to their students.”