What you need to know about UC Berkeley’s LGBT studies minor

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Ashley Zhang/Staff

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The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, or LGBT studies, minor is an interdisciplinary program in UC Berkeley’s gender and women’s studies, or GWS, department.

According to the GWS department website, LGBT studies seeks to analyze sexuality as an elaborate component of human culture. LGBT studies addresses the modern evolution of sexuality and non-heteronormative relationships, as well as their historical diversification.

Students studying any major can obtain an LGBT studies minor by completing six courses: four core courses — the mandatory LGBT 20AC and three upper-division courses — and two upper-division electives.

“LGBT (studies) goes beyond GWS — it doesn’t only affect women; it affects all people who are nonbinary and non-gender conforming,” said Zury Chavez, a UC Berkeley alumna who took the LGBT minor.

Chavez, who majored in media studies, said she was interested in the different ways people are represented in the media and the arts and in how audiences perceive and interpret various genders and sexualities.

According to Michael Lucey, a campus professor of French and comparative literature, the minor was first authorized in fall 1995. Lucey said Chancellor Carol Christ — who was the executive vice chancellor and provost at the time — funded the Berkeley Bisexual Lesbian and Gay Center, or BBLGC, which focused on providing a curriculum for LGBT studies.

Lucey and current New York University professor Carolyn Dinshaw led the BBLGC, and after surveys on student interest, they founded the LGBT studies minor program.

“Student activists, mostly students of color, had included the creation of an LGBT studies program on their agenda in their negotiations with the Berkeley administration in the early 1990s,” Lucey said in an email.

Paola Bacchetta, a campus professor of GWS and the department’s vice chair for pedagogy, is one of the main professors who consistently teaches the minor. Bacchetta’s research focuses on social movements; political, religious, and nationalist conflict; feminists and queer people of color; and colonial theory, among other topics.

Bacchetta said LGBT studies was established after the GWS minor as standalone minor because of its specificity. Whereas the GWS minor is “very large and heterogenous,” LGBT studies is “the only specialization possible” in the LGBT minor, Bacchetta added.

The required upper division course LGBT 145, titled “Interpreting the Queer Past: Methods and Problems in the History of Sexuality,” focuses on the history of sexuality and the issues that have been encountered in the discourse surrounding sexual identities, according to Lucey.

In addition, the nine electives that students can choose from explore the relationship between sexuality and other historical facets of both modern and historical society.

“The amount that I learned was incredible,” Chavez said. “I learned about how sexuality was treated differently throughout time, about legislature throughout the years. I learned about being very mindful about our everyday language — I try to be more respectful about the way I speak with other people.”

Contact Kelly Yang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyYangMSJ.