DVC Marks LGBTQIA+ History Month with State’s First Pride Learning Community


Image courtesy of Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 4.0.

Christina Carasis, Staff

October is LGBTQIA+ History Month, and Diablo Valley College is making its own mark on history by becoming the first community college in California to offer a dedicated learning community for LGBTQIA+ students and their allies.

Psychology professor Matt Munday and English professor James Wilson, both openly LGBTQIA+ faculty members at DVC and co-founders of the Pride Learning Community and the Pride Alliance, emphasized how important it was for students to see role models at their school – and why this drove them to create the unique campus resources.

“Being part of the queer community is hard for a number of reasons,” Munday told The Inquirer. “I feel very grateful in my life. I’ve navigated a lot. Now I’m happily married to my husband and life is good, but I know the journey to get there is very difficult.”

Wilson added, “I grew up in a different time. There was a queer group on my campus, but I think it was really different, and being able to participate in creating a campus culture that is more inclusive, open and visible than the experience I had as a younger person is something I am really interested in.”

Students who sign up for the Pride Learning Community – the first of its kind in the California Community Colleges system – take two courses each semester, one in English and one in Social Sciences, which focus on LGBTQIA+ history, culture, identity and experience.

In addition, PLC students have access to workshops, guest speakers, mentorships and counseling. Anyone is welcome to sign up, said Munday, and the dedicated learning community “allows for very safe spaces for people to talk.”

LGBTQIA+ students still face unique challenges today, said Munday and Wilson, especially over the past year and a half, since COVID-19 restrictions left many students isolated in unsupportive living environments.

In addition to teaching psychology courses, Munday serves as a counselor, particularly for international students. Among this demographic, especially, he said he has seen an uptick in anxiety and depression, as “many international students are wrestling with ‘who I am’ vs ‘what’s allowed in my culture.’”

Wilson added, “the student-run Queer Student Alliance also went quiet during 2020 because students were overwhelmed. It was much harder to support from a distance.”

Even before the pandemic, LGBTQIA+ students experienced hard choices. Wilson said they saw students who were open about their sexuality or gender on campus, but would then return home to unsupportive parents, or to busy jobs that allowed them to keep up with the financial burden of living on their own – often in order to escape the unsafe or unsupportive households they grew up in.

“Having to go home and think about how to hide a part of themselves is a huge mental strain,” they said. Because of this, it became apparent to Munday and Wilson how important it was for DVC to be seen as a safe campus for DVC’s LGBTQIA+ population.

“For a long time a school would see a student-led LGBTQIA+ group like the Queer Student Alliance and say, ‘That group is taken care of.’” said Munday. “But there is more that we can do. If DVC can pave the way, what an amazing thing.”

In addition to the Pride Learning Community, the DVC Pride Alliance serves as an advocacy group for LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff. After attending a statewide LGBTQIA+ Community College summit, Wilson said they “came home with tons of ideas to make DVC a more inclusive campus.” A group of faculty and students realized that having a group to gather and organize those ideas to effect change was crucial.

“Prior to that, we didn’t have a venue to get together and advocate,” Wilson said. Since then, the Pride Alliance has met monthly to work towards building a new curriculum, training staff, creating an on-campus Pride Center, and dealing with incidents of bias.

The Pride Learning Community and Pride Alliance are open to new enrollments. More information can be found at dvc.edu/pride, and sign-ups for the Spring 2022 semester will be available soon.

Both Munday and Wilson said they encouraged all students to look deeper into LGBTQIA+ history and community. In addition to utilizing learning resources, Munday said an important step is to “just talk to queer people, make community.”