History of Queer and Trans Communities at UCSB

Illustrated by Bridget Rios

Anne Le & Lauren Luna

Contributing Writer & News Editor

Last week, LGBTQ students came together for the celebration of trans and queer communities, as well as their history. The trans and queer communities at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) have made long strides since UCSB’s start in 1959. As Pride Week celebrates the triumphs and accomplishments of the queer and trans communities, they also celebrated the road that the community took during their time at UCSB. 

At the start of 1959, when Santa Barbara College became UCSB, the LGBTQ community was stigmatized and staff and employees were not treated equally. An example of this was when the United States Army fired an astronomer for being gay, which created a taboo among federal employees. 

Moving forward to 1965, UC Berkeley alumnus Konstantin Berlandt wrote the first California university article representing the queer community. The Daily Californian ran the bold front page headlines: “2,700 Homosexuals at Cal.” The fact that homosexual was headlined in bold on these newspapers initiated the groundwork for more queer representation in the future. 

In 1970, the first Gay Student Union was founded at UCSB. At the time, the queer community in Santa Barbara still lacked visibility, so the creation of a safe space for LGBTQ students paved the way for further growth of the campus queer community. This support allowed for numerous LGBTQ students to come to together and feel accepted by peers, reassuring them that people in the school cared for and supported the community.  

Six years later, the Pacific Pride Foundation was founded. According to the UCSB Current, this foundation played an instrumental role in Santa Barbara and also the coastal communities between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Not only did the foundation help people in the LGBTQ community, but they also offered health services to people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The foundation currently has offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. 

The ’80s presented both wins and losses for UCSB’s queer and trans communities. In 1983, University of California (UC) Regents drew a resolution to recognize sexual orientation on university documents. In the same year, UCSB Counseling & Psychological Services drew a resolution which encouraged the UC Regents to make a policy outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

However, the AIDS crisis perpetuated a spread of misinformation and fear around the queer community. In 1987, UCSB implemented a task force to counter the AIDS crisis and to provide direction for programs addressing the issue. Resources to address the crisis included campus condom vending machines, which were available in residential halls and the University Center. Despite these efforts, homophobic attitudes persisted among the student body and weren’t addressed on a systemwide level until 1990.

The ’90s ushered in a period of resistance and action for the queer community at UCSB. From critiques of Greek life’s relationships with the queer community to the first LGBTQ conference at UCSB, activism opened new doors of opportunity for queer students. The queer resource center, now known as the Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, has provided students with advocacy options, especially transgender students who need specialized healthcare, all-gender bathrooms, and official name changes. 

In 2006, Associated Students (AS) founded the Trans and Queer Commission, later becoming active in 2007. This group is now known as the most influential LGBTQ group on campus, as they generate funding for other queer organizations, popularize events like Pride Week to uplift LGBTQ voices, and advocate for queer and trans students by communicating with the school’s lawmakers.

Come 2010, the first Pride Festival was held in Isla Vista (I.V.). Running down Pardall Street and into Anisq’Oyo’ Park, Pride not only drew attention to queer issues in I.V., but also celebrated music, fashion, and art spearheaded by members of local queer community. This tradition went through a brief pause due to COVID-19, but returned in time for this year.

The early 2010s introduced state and federal legislation that materialized systemic change in the queer and trans communities. Despite Obama’s initial “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance on queer identity, the Obama administration clarified in 2010 that Title IX protected queer and trans students. This clarification made it possible for queer and trans people to fight for jobs, healthcare, and other amenities that were initially denied to them. 

In 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring public schools to teach about the contributions of LGBT Americans, among other groups. The policy made it possible for students at all academic levels to learn about LGBTQ history, and acknowledged the queer and trans community as an essential part of American history.

The later part of the 2010s witnessed academic wins in the LGBTQ community. In 2013, Mary Bernstein and Verta Taylor (sociology professor at UCSB) published a book called “The Marrying Kind? Debating Same-Sex Marriage within the Lesbian and Gay Movement” that focused on same-sex marriage. Their book examined arguments within the LGBTQ movement, such as opposition to same-sex marriage, and how they have affected marriage equality. 

In 2014, the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network was founded by members of the Pacific Pride Commission looking for a space to learn more about trans identities, specifically. This split brought intersectionality into question, challenging whether there had been enough discussion on trans people in a space meant to cater to all LGBTQ people. In 2015, the UCSB Department of Feminist Studies created the LGBTQ studies minor. 

Today, intersectionality is the first priority of the LGBTQ community. There are over 12 different coalitions on campus for LGBTQ students, many of which also advocate for people of color and trans students.