The Evolution of LGBTQ Studies at UCLA

Published: July 21, 2017
As the program celebrates 20 years of scholarship and advocacy, it also eyes expansion

Jessica Wolf | 

For two decades, the field of queer studies has been thriving and evolving within the humanities division of the UCLA College. Now Alicia Gaspar de Alba, chair of what is currently known as LGBTQ studies, is ready to take the program to the next level by introducing a Ph.D. It would the first in the nation.

“It’s great that we are still here, that we have survived, but now I’m ready to move forward,” said Gaspar de Alba, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies. Her Ph.D. proposal is in the works and she is confident it will succeed — particularly because she was the architect of UCLA’s Ph.D. program in Chicana and Chicano studies. A concurrent proposal for changing the program from a freestanding minor to an interdepartmental program with 50 percent full-time faculty is also in progress.

Fall 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the interdisciplinary program. The program was originally called lesbian, gay and bisexual studies in 1997, but soon after expanded to add the word “transgender.”

Recently, faculty and students decided it was important also to add “queer” to that title, catching up to the vernacular of the community. It is now formally known as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer studies.

“It’s the most inclusive word, and absolutely about reclaiming the word ‘queer’ from a pejorative use,” said Gaspar de Alba, who began teaching at UCLA in 1994 and was among the first to participate in the faculty advisory committee that launched the minor.

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