UM’s Gender and Sexuality LLC students launch project for campus mural on queer history

At the start of the semester, UM officially launched the Gender and Sexuality Living Learning Communities (LLC), a new housing opportunity for students passionate about the queer community and social change to live and learn together.

Headed by LGBTQ Student Center Director Dr. Gisela Vega, the LLC involves opportunities in civic participation.

Students involved in UM's Gender and Sexuality LLC pose for a photo.
Students involved in UM's Gender and Sexuality LLC pose for a photo. Photo credit: Jose Gonzalez

Jose Gonzalez, a freshman neuroscience major and member of the new housing community, spoke with The Miami Hurricane about his experience participating in the LLC.

“Since it’s new this year, all the kinks of it are still getting figured out, but overall it has been working out,” Gonzalez said.

More than just a housing option, Gonzalez discussed how students enrolled in the LLC are enriched with courses in queer history.

“You have to take a class to be in the LLC,” Gonzalez said. “The course is about queer history and how to be a leader, especially how to be a leader in the [queer] community. There’s projects with it too. It’s more work that you have to do, but it gives you credit for the class.”

Gonzalez stressed that the LLC’s work is important, noting that there is significant work involved for interested students. Tasked with organizing a large mural on UM’s campus, Gonzalez and other LLC members spent this semester planning the large task.

“For us students, we are tasked with two things,” Gonzalez said. “We have individual projects and we have group projects. Individually we have to work with an organization, figure out how to improve it and make lasting change. The group project is a mural. We want to enact social change as a group and create something that’s going to last.”

Gonzalez explained how student members of the LLC decided upon a mural.

“Originally, our idea was to do something with the prison system or schools, but that stuff would never get passed by the end of the semester. So, we settled on doing the mural. We’ve been getting a lot of sponsors. It’s exciting,” Gonzalez said.

The mural, which the LLC hopes to complete as soon as possible, will feature the art of queer community artists, with a focus on nationwide queer history.

“We spoke with a bunch of administrators who gave us several spots for the mural,” said Gonzalez. “It will be indoors. Our idea with it is to get artists from the Miami community to help us, specifically queer artists, because the subject of the mural is going to be queer performance art history.”

Gonzalez emphasized that the mural is not just for queer students, but something that all UM students can enjoy, regardless of sexual orientation.

“We want it to inform the public that [the queer movement] has been going on for way longer than people realize and people see where we are right now, but I don’t think they recognize the past of how we got here,” Gonzalez said. “I think it would be very important to showcase our history and where everything started, how it became what it is today and the struggles we’ve had to go through to get where we are right now.”

Gonzalez explained a potential vision for the mural.

“One idea we like would include six parts going from the sixties all the way to modern day and it would have images of famous people in the queer movement,” Gonzalez said. “The sixties is Stonewall so maybe Marsha P. Johnson would be on it. We will be able to see that it is a depiction of history and that it all connects to where we are today.”

While Gonzalez and his fellow organizers are passionate about the cause and plan to work on the mural alongside the artists, he stressed that they don’t feel qualified enough to execute the artistic design alone. Nonetheless, the LLC plans to fund the artists in any way they can.

“We’re going to help paint it, but we are not all good painters so we need help,” Gonzalez said. “We also have funding for this. We are going to provide the artists with paint, utensils and brushes. We’ve already raised around $900 out of the $1000 that was our goal, so we are in good shape. We’ve gotten almost thirty artists that we’ve contacted and we’ve gotten around fifteen who have said they will help us with this.”

“If anyone can help with this, whether it be funding or artists who would like to help, we will take any help that is available. This is something for the whole UM community to enjoy. It’s not just only for queer people. It’s to show everyone that we are here and that this is our history.”

He repeatedly stressed the beauty of a project like this one, mentioning the sense of community that working on the mural gives participants.

“Even though there are unofficial leaders within the project, we all have to put in our part or else this won’t get done. It is really a group effort. The beauty in this is that it’s a lot more than what just one person can do. In the end, this mural consists of a bunch of different pieces, much like the process to get it there.”

Interested artists can reach out to Gonzalez at jmg613@miami.edu.