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June 13, 2023

June marks the month-long celebration of LGBTQ+ pride and community. The Department of Computer Science at UNC honors Pride Month and supports LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff by sharing resources available on UNC’s campus, information about national organizations supporting LGBTQ+ people in tech, and ways to support the LGBTQ+ community in STEM (and in our broader communities).

It is our diverse community working together that will allow for solutions to today’s challenges, solutions that benefit us all. We encourage everyone to take time this month to learn more about and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

History of the LGBTQ+ Community in Tech

There are many influential figures and leaders in tech history that are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Learning more about the origin of Pride Month and more specifically about inspiring leaders and their contributions to the tech field is one way to participate in Pride Month.

Many articles have been written highlighting these individuals. These articles celebrate the contributions of influential and inspiring LGBTQ+ individuals in tech:

Student and Professional Organizations Supporting LGBTQ+ in Tech

  • Lesbians Who Tech: a community of LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individuals in and around tech (and the people who support them).
  • Maven Youth:  empowers LGBT+ youth to network, organize and educate for social change through technology and the tech sector.
  • Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM): a non-profit professional association for LGBTQ+ people in the STEM community.
  • Out in Tech: creates opportunities for its members to advance their careers, grow their networks and leverage tech for social change.
  • Out to Innovate: a professional society and global community of LGBTQ+ students and professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • TransTech: serves as an incubator for tech talent, providing opportunity to develop skills in a community empowered environment.

UNC-Chapel Hill Resources/Programs Honoring the LGBTQ+ Community

Started Fall 2021 by UNC CS students, Queer_hack, a UNC CS student organization, was created to remove barriers for queer students in tech-related fields with the ultimate goal of increasing recruitment and retention of queer people in academia and industry. The team worked to create community social events and skill-building workshops and ultimately launched two virtual hackathons reaching students from North Carolina to California (and many places in between). UNC CS remains committed to providing this space for students and welcomes a new cohort of students to lead. If you are interested please contact Briana Scurry.

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM) is a non-profit professional society, which has a local UNC-CH student chapter that provides opportunity for community across the STEM disciplines. oSTEM states that its goal is to, “empower LGBTQ+ students in STEM to succeed personally, academically, and professionally.” The organization holds social events to connect queer STEM students with one another, and partners with graduate students in STEM Pride to provide one-on-one mentorship opportunities.

The LGBTQ Community Center at UNC hosts educational and social programs throughout each academic year to support undergraduate students to aid in their academic success and to build community.

Examples of such programming include Queer FallFest (held in August) and Pride Week (held in April). Held during the regular academic year (August – May), the goal of these programs is to provide space for community and celebration.

The LGBTQ Community Center also hosts the Safe Zone program, designed to create a network of visible allies to people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ campus community. These trainings provide information and resources related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. These continuing education trainings are offered to students, faculty and staff at UNC; the department encourages faculty and staff to attend these and other DEI trainings offered at the University.

Local Community Events Honoring the LGBTQ+ Community

Neighboring cities, as well as Chapel Hill/Carrboro, all host Pride celebrations throughout the month of June (or other times of the year) – these community events each celebrate the LGBTQ+ community members and encourage allies to attend. Details about local community events can be found here: Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Durham, Raleigh

Why are these conversations important?

Reflecting on the role we all play in ensuring that everyone feels welcomed, valued, and affirmed within our community is important. Examining research, such as this article from Science Advances, allows us to consider the current experiences of those with unrepresented identities in tech and challenge us all to explore ways we can make change and better support our entire community.