Innovative Peers for Pride Facilitators Lead Workshops about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Across Campus
written by Ixchel Rosal and Shane Whalley
The Gender and Sexuality Center developed the Peers for Pride program, which serves to make UT Austin a place of acceptance, support and safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities on campus. The peer facilitation program trains students for academic credit to lead workshops about sexual orientation and gender identity across the UT Austin campus.
Members of the Peers for Pride program take two classes, one in the fall and one in the spring. During the fall semester course, “Confronting LGBTQ Oppression: Exploring the Issues and Learning the Skills to Communicate Them,” students learn basic facilitation skills while taking an in-depth look at some issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals. During the spring semester course, “Facilitating Dialogues on LGBTQ Oppression: Peers for Pride in Action,” peer facilitators have the opportunity to fine-tune their facilitation skills and lead workshops across campus. Also, during the fall semester, students from the previous year’s program conduct trainings and workshops as staff of the Gender and Sexuality Center.
Peers for Pride is modeled after two peer education programs at UT Austin: 1) Voices Against Violence housed in the Counseling and Mental Health Center and 2) Sexual Health Peer Educators housed out of the Health Promotion Resource Center. Peers for Pride is the only program that includes peer education on LGBTQ issues for academic credit at UT Austin (3 hours per semester for a total of 6 credit hours per year cross-listed in the School of Social Work and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies). Additionally, in comparison to other universities and colleges in the United States, Peers for Pride is unique in utilizing Theater of the Oppressed methods and performance as a teaching tool to promote dialogue about LGBTQ issues. The Peers for Pride program also serves as a model for other universities and colleges. For example, Central Michigan University launched a program modeled after our Peers for Pride program and Vanderbilt University is interested in the model for their women’s center. To date, the Peers for Pride facilitators have conducted trainings for over 500 people, about 35 workshops a year on campus, and have presented at three national conferences.
Peers for Pride facilitators are asked to keep journals of their experiences in the program, below are two excerpts from the student journals:
- Peers for Pride opened my eyes, and I mean, really, opened my eyes to issues facing the LGBTQ community. Although I would have considered myself an Ally before I joined Peers for Pride, over two semesters this program gave me the confidence and the language I lacked before in order to speak up and speak out about LGBTQ equality.
- I’ve come out of this class with new friendships, new resources, new ideas, new knowledge, and a better understanding of not only the world, but also of myself. Isn’t that what college is all about?