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Celebrating Pride Month

Meet Lisa Moore, director of the LGBTQ Studies Program and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights
Lisa Moore Lav Grad 22

Lisa Moore came to UT Austin by way of Calgary, Canada, where her family had a cattle farm amidst the stunning backdrop of the Canadian Rockies. After earning her Ph.D. in English and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies in 1991 from Cornell University, she was ready to embark on her career in academia. Just when she thought she would be returning to Canada to pursue a tenure-track teaching position, an opportunity opened up at UT Austin that she couldn’t pass up.

Now, Moore serves as co-director of the College of Liberal Arts’ LGBTQ Studies Program, which is home to a diverse group of 30-plus faculty affiliates who teach popular courses on literature, history, global LGBTQ communities and issues, health, popular culture and more. Moore also serves as co-chair for the Council for LGBTQ+ Access, Equity, and Inclusion, which addresses issues of access, equity and inclusion among faculty at UT Austin based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Read on to learn more about Moore’s advocacy work—and the impact she has made during her three decades on the Forty Acres.

Burnt orange-bound… “Back in 1991, I was looking for jobs in English departments and the very few Women’s and Gender Studies programs that existed. I saw an opening at The University of Texas for a feminist theory specialist in the English department. It was perfect, so I applied and was lucky enough to get the job. I had heard from friends that Austin was a great place to live and that it had a thriving queer community. I wasn’t expecting to set down roots, but this is where I met my wife, started our family, made great friendships, earned tenure and did the academic, creative and activist work I wanted to do. I’ve been very happy at UT, despite the challenges of living in Texas.”

A victorious moment… “For the first 24 years at UT, I had been working alongside some great staff leaders to get same-sex partner benefits. In fact, we founded the Pride and Equity Faculty-Staff Association (PEFSA) to fight for this. In terms of quality of life, equity and compensation, the ability to access equitable benefits has been the most consequential change for the better that I’ve seen on campus. In 2015, when the Supreme Court Decision happened, President Fenves issued instructions to make same-sex partner benefits accessible as soon as possible. I will never forget the day when we PEFSA members all walked into Human Resources at the same time to sign our partners up for health insurance and other benefits. HR staff supplied us with cake and balloons. That was an incredible moment. It made a huge difference to my family’s income and health.”

Navigating the waters…“I do feminist advocacy work around gender identity, sexual orientation and their intersections with race, immigration status, ability and other social categories because this is my community, the people I see every day. This is the water I swim in, and I want the water to be non-toxic.”

A step in the right direction…One of our students—a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate—was successful in working with the Senate of College Councils to offer inclusive housing at UT [named the Family and Friend Inclusive Housing Option]. Now, students can choose their roommates to make sure they will not experience stigma and violence in their dorm room. This is a move in the right direction but, of course, there’s still room for progress.

Areas for improvement…“I would like to see the university practice inclusive data gathering on LGBTQ+ folks. It’s hard for us to develop policies that increase equity without that kind of data. Another issue is that, according to a recent update by the Queer and Trans Student Alliance, increased police presence makes queer and trans students feel less safe, and that fear is exacerbated for queer and trans students of color. We need to address this as a culture.”

How we can all do better…“It’s important to educate ourselves and acknowledge the challenges that staff, faculty and students are facing. Understand that while UT and the city of Austin may seem safer than other parts of Texas, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to do. You have a part to play in speaking up to ensure that every space you’re in is inclusive. Whether you’re in a fraternity, sorority, department or unit, ask yourself, ‘Where are the queer people and are they included? If not, how can we fix this?”

Advice for allies and advocates… “Support the Gender & Sexuality Center and make use of their resources. Become active in LGBTQ+ organizations and support them. This is so important because they can be a lifeline for students. For example, I’ve known students who have lost housing after coming out to their parents because their parents pulled financial help. Giving to the GSC Crisis Fund is a great way to support this community.”

Reading Recommendations…”I encourage you to read two iconic queer poetry collections: ‘The Tradition’ by Jericho Brown or ‘Postcolonial Love Poem’ by Natalie Diaz.  See the poets read the title poems here and here!”