A Pioneer in the Development of the Field of Queer and Trans Studies
City College of San Francisco is among the most hospitable campuses for LGBT Studies students in the United States.
In addition to queer and trans-friendly student services like Counseling and Student Health, there is also the Queer Resource Center and partnerships with other campus support communities and services.
More and more, students of all sexual orientations and gender identities have found the offerings in LGBT Studies to be important for their future careers as they strive to become more open to San Francisco's incredibly diverse populations. Of particular note, students entering into education, health, and first responder types of work have found LGBT Studies courses at CCSF to be crucial to their professional development - particularly since the State of California now mandates training and inclusion of LGBTQI2+ materials in K-12, in healthcare, and for first responders.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Studies Department's core values recognize the interdisciplinary nature of the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, ability, and age in understanding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Differences of Sex Development (Intersex), Two-Spirit, and Asexual communities in a global context. We believe interdisciplinary approaches to education are crucial to our understandings of LGBTQI2++ experiences around the world from ancient cultures to the present day. Our courses are accessible to all.
In fall 1972, Instructor Dan Allen from City College of San Francisco's English Department developed one of the first gay literature courses in the country. When Allen stepped down a few years later due to illness, another instructor, Dr. Jack Collins, expanded CCSF's gay and lesbian studies program to first two and then four courses.
Among the initial offerings was a popular film class that attracted one hundred students. This, in the words of Dr. Collins, "impressed the college." The high enrollment rates and the support of a gay CCSF board member paved the way for the establishment in 1989 of the first Gay and Lesbian Studies Department in the United States. (The name was changed to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Studies Department in 1996, and later changed to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies in 2006). The initial courses were offered off-campus at a San Francisco middle school.
Almost three decades later, courses are offered at various CCSF locations throughout the city of San Francisco as well as online courses available to all California residents.
Diversity and Faculty
Since its inception, the department has sought to expand its reach through collaboration with other "mainstream" departments. The list of offerings includes interdisciplinary courses in Anthropology (ANTH20: LGBT Anthropology), Biology (BIO15: The Biology of HIV), Child Development and Family Studies (CDEV76: Supporting LGBT Families in Educational Settings), History (HIST45: LGBT American History), Latin American/ Latinx LGBT Studies (LALS/LGBT 9)and other disciplines.
In addition to adding expertise to the department's faculty, these offerings also help build support for the LGBT Studies Department among the rest of the CCSF faculty. The department is also developing new courses to meet the needs and interests of people of color.
Enrollment and Support
The department's enrollment has declined over the past several years from its peak in the late 1980s. The faculty interprets this trend as a reflection of local demographic changes and is responding by offering courses that address new issues of interest and concern to San Francisco's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities, including older students who want more cultural courses and LGBT communities of color who want education that addresses their particular situation and issues. In addition to course offerings, the department works closely with the School of Fine, Applied, and Communication Arts, which offers funding advice and contact person(s).
Because of their high enrollment, the initial courses more than paid for themselves. Indeed their ability to generate funds for the college was noted by CCSF decision-makers and helped pave the way for establishing the department. The department and its students have also been supported by a $50,000 endowment from Dan Allen, the program's founder, who died some years ago. The endowment has paid for speakers and student scholarships.
"The development of a department contributes to establishing a whole academic field. It is very exciting to be part of this building process and to witness a continuing evolution that reflects the changing needs of the community."
The Dan Allen Endowment is an example of how a member of an underrepresented group can financially contribute to a department, but contributions can also be used for stipends for instructors or professional development. In seeking support and momentum to launch a program like a department at CCSF, program developers may want to consider whether they can raise funds from within their own community.
In addition to providing a financial boost, such generosity is noticed by college decision-makers and may pave the way for additional college support. Instead of starting out by attempting to launch a department, an underrepresented group could begin by developing and offering one or a few classes. This strategy makes the startup cost manageable, tests the community's interest, and offers founders the opportunity to build momentum and a support base within and outside of the college. Do not develop an "embattled mentality" when you are attempting to launch or manage a department that serves an underrepresented group(1).
(1)This history was excerpted from "We Could Do That!", as researched and written to promote awareness and discussion about diversity models and to create a network that connects current practitioners and aspiring diversity advocates and activists. The Promoting Diversity Project was funded by a grant from the Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges.