April 23 - May 23, 2022
In 2011, the Princeton Review ranked Southern Methodist University as the eleventh worst university for gay students. Then, in a dramatic shift a decade later, Campus Pride listed it among ten religious schools living up to LGBTQ-inclusive values in August 2021. However, the struggle for LGBT campus acceptance has lasted far longer than just one decade. For LGBT students at SMU, there is a wide legacy that has yet to be honored in a multidisciplinary, public-facing project synthesizing the documented history of LGBT students.
Building on the research of the PRIDE@SMU capstone project, In Search of Belonging explores stories of LGBTQ+ student organizing -- struggles for equality and recognition -- through oral history and archival documents. From the eight-year fight to charter the first Gay and Lesbian Student Organization (GLSO), to the founding of SMU’s first ever gay fraternity, to the present-day work and testimonies of queer Mustangs, these past and present queer narratives elevate both the roots of the SMU LGBTQ+ community and the truth of what “Mustang Pride” looks and feels like today. Most of the LGBT student experience does not fit neatly into newspaper headlines; however, by outlining some of the key events, setbacks, and successes of the LGBT rights movement at SMU, this work initiates a conversation about LGBTQ+ acceptance on the Hilltop today, ultimately showing that there’s more work to be done.
In Search of Belonging challenges SMU to reckon with its long and recent history of LGBTQ+ marginalization, to acknowledge the pain and pride of its students, faculty, and alumni, and to live up to its stated values of equity and inclusivity -- both on paper and in practice, so that every student feels like they belong.