Opinion: Pride Month is Coming, and Oklahoma Colleges and Universities Should Publicly Commit to Fostering Safe Spaces for LGBTQ+ Students, Educators, and Administrators

By Josiah Robinson

Now more than ever, Oklahoma higher education institutions should celebrate the diversity and beauty of the thousands of LGBTQ+ students and staff in colleges and universities across the state. But the chilling effect following recent events has some afraid to speak out. 

Nationally, there have been an unprecedented number of bills introduced in state legislatures that target gender and sexual minorities. The safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ students, educators, and administrators on college and university campuses is threatened in new ways. 

Here in Oklahoma, bills related to censorship of LGBTQ+ topics and efforts to defund educational programming that seek to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion have made headlines. According to some reports, over fifty bills targeting LGBTQ+ people were introduced in Oklahoma this legislative session. 

And even when bills did not pass, the chilling effect and misinformation resulting from the bills has had harmful and lasting impacts. That chilling effect has likely been compounded by former legislation that has prohibited educating students about certain concepts related to race, gender and sexuality. 

As someone who was terrified to come out during college or law school because of the risk of retaliation, I know how important and powerful it can be for institutions to vocally and explicitly communicate their support for LGBTQ+ students. 

As we enter June, my plea is for Oklahoma colleges and universities to speak up next month, develop and amplify supportive programming for LGBTQ+ students and educators, and recommit to the principles of educational equity that are inclusive of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Josiah Robinson is Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Support & Resources Community of Practice at the Tulsa Higher Education Consortium. He also leads Prism Project, an initiative that seeks to advance inclusivity and foster safe spaces for LGBTQ+ Tulsans through research and education. After graduating law school, Josiah worked to promote civil rights for LGBTQ+ students in higher education. Josiah also serves as the LGBTQ+ Advocate on the City of Tulsa Human Rights Commission and has work as an adjunct professor at Tulsa Community College.

Profile photo of Josiah Robinson, J.D.