In 2011, the Princeton Review ranked Southern Methodist University as the eleventh worst university for gay students. Then, in a dramatic shift a decade later, Campus Pride listed it among ten religious schools living up to LGBTQ-inclusive values in August 2021. However, the struggle for LGBT campus acceptance has lasted far longer than just one decade. For LGBT students at SMU, there is a wide legacy that has yet to be honored in a multidisciplinary, public-facing project synthesizing the documented history of LGBT students.
Building on the research of the PRIDE@SMU capstone project, In Search of Belonging explores stories of LGBTQ+ student organizing — struggles for equality and recognition — through oral history and archival documents. From the eight-year fight to charter the first Gay and Lesbian Student Organization (GLSO), to the founding of SMU’s first ever gay fraternity, to the present-day work and testimonies of queer Mustangs, these past and present queer narratives elevate both the roots of the SMU LGBTQ+ community and the truth of what “Mustang Pride” looks and feels like today. Most of the LGBT student experience does not fit neatly into newspaper headlines; however, by outlining some of the key events, setbacks, and successes of the LGBT rights movement at SMU, this work initiates a conversation about LGBTQ+ acceptance on the Hilltop today, ultimately showing that there’s more work to be done.
In Search of Belonging challenges SMU to reckon with its long and recent history of LGBTQ+ marginalization, to acknowledge the pain and pride of its students, faculty, and alumni, and to live up to its stated values of equity and inclusivity — both on paper and in practice, so that every student feels like they belong.
What is the PRIDE@SMU Project?
Founded by SMU senior and Queer Senator Bri Tollie, PRIDE@SMU is a student-led, interdisciplinary research team investigating LGBTQ+ history and experiences at SMU. The project launched in August 2021 with the help of SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning and over 10 campus partners and mentors. Since its launch, the PRIDE team has interviewed 14 queer SMU students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as hosted the first-ever Queer State of the University Address at SMU on February 11th, 2022. Along with this event, this research is contributing to the In Search of Belonging exhibit, as well as informing students and administrators for ongoing community event planning and campus policy reform. Managed by a diverse group of LGBTQ+ students and allies, PRIDE@SMU combines archival, oral, and institutional history to better understand the queer community’s roots at SMU.
Opening reception on April 23, 1 – 3 pm:
RSVP for the Opening Reception here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/in-search-of-belonging-opening-reception-tickets-304755591177. This exhibition runs from April 23 – May 23, 2022.
Photo: Ashe Thye, SMU Pride, Student, ’23.