University of Texas at Dallas: UT Dallas, Students Take Pride in New LGBTQ+ Ranking for Campus

As a freshman who commuted to campus while living at home, Natasha Rahman expected to feel isolated at The University of Texas at Dallas.

“UTD proved me so wrong,” said the mechanical engineering student, who uses the pronouns she and they.

Natasha Rahman
Now a senior, Rahman said they found a welcoming community on campus through the Galerstein Gender Center and LGBT+ student organizations.

“I saw that I can come to the Gender Center and feel loved and included,” said Rahman, who was elected this year’s Homecoming king. “Campus was a place where I could be myself freely and authentically.”

Earlier this month, BestColleges, in partnership with Campus Pride, recognized UT Dallas as the 14th best college in the U.S. for LGBTQ+ students, making it the top university in Texas and one of only two in the Southwest to make the list.

The honor is based on benchmarks such as programs, policies and practices. Students, however, said the people make the biggest difference.

“The Galerstein Gender Center definitely does a lot to support LGBTQ+ students and organizations on campus, and we have a lot of events specifically for creating community for queer people to feel comfortable,” said Cal Thompson, a visual and performing arts senior.

Eric Aaberg, a marketing senior, said he loves events such as National Coming Out Day and participating in the Dallas Pride Parade with UTD.

“It was awesome to see not only students, but the entire University involved in the Dallas Pride Parade,” Aaberg said about this year’s event. “To see students, staff, faculty, the spirit squads and even our mascot march in the parade was beautiful as it represents how accepting UTD is.”

In addition to the latest ranking, UTD has earned five out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index benchmarking tool since 2019 and was one of only two universities in the Southwest to make Campus Pride’s 2021 Best of the Best list of 30 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities.

“This recognition speaks to the incredible leadership of our team in the Galerstein Gender Center, as well as to the support and commitment of our partners across campus,” said Dr. Yvette E. Pearson, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. “We look forward to continuing to advance equity and belonging for all members and friends of the UT Dallas community.”

The show produced a video about Winser-Johns, which aired on June 6. Producers of “The View” had asked him to give a live interview from his home to a local news crew after the video aired. Instead, he found himself live before a national audience on the show.

UTD provides services and support through the Student Counseling Center and offers Safe Zone Ally training, Campus Pride Alternative Spring Break, Lavender Graduation, gender-inclusive housing and gender-neutral restrooms. UT Dallas’ nondiscrimination policy includes gender identity and gender expression, and its student identity policy offers options for using affirmed names and gender pronouns in University communications and diplomas.

“While we appreciate and welcome this acknowledgement from BestColleges and Campus Pride, the most important feedback comes from our students,” said Matthew Winser-Johns, director of the Galerstein Gender Center. “We want to consistently provide the best services, resources, programming and support to the LGBTQ+ community on campus — that is what drives us to continue to innovate and push for more at UT Dallas.”

Rahman also is focused on making UTD a welcoming place for everyone. They serve as secretary of Chi Alpha Iota diaternity, a gender-inclusive Greek organization, and vice president for Queer and Trans People of Color at UTD.

“Through everything I do, I want to be able to pass that feeling of belonging to those around me,” Rahman said. “I want to empower all the younger generations the same way the Gender Center did for me during my first semester at UT Dallas.”