Iowa State celebrates LGBTQIA+ History Month


Photo by Caitlin Yamada, Design by Maria Albers

October was named LGBTQUIA+ History Month by Mehlville High School history teacher Rodney Wilson in 1994. National Coming Out Day is celebrated on Oct. 11.

Logan Metzger

For the LGBTQIA+ community, October is more than a celebration of spooky season and Halloween; it is a time to celebrate the community’s history.

LGBTQIA+ History Month has been celebrated by the community since 1994, though a president or another equivalent has never officially declared it so.

“LGBTQIA+ History Month is an annual celebration throughout the month of October that celebrates the contributions of LGBTQIA+ people, communities and cultures across the Iowa State campus,” said Brad Freihoefer, director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success.

The month was chosen by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher at Mehlville High School in St. Louis.

“It was while teaching at Mehlville, while lecturing on the Holocaust that Wilson came out to his students, explaining that had he been in Germany during World War II, he would likely have been imprisoned and killed under the Third Reich,” according to

October was chosen by Wilson as the month for the celebration because National Coming Out Day was already established as a widely-known event on the 11th of October. It also commemorated the anniversary of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 14, 1979.

“A lot of students may be unaware of the length of the history, the leadership in that history that has occurred,” Freihoefer said. “We are talking early 1970s that LGBTQIA+ folks started coming together publicly [at Iowa State]. We are all built on that history.”

Iowa State itself has a long history with the LGBTQIA+ community, though it has not always made it to the forefront of the conversation on campus.

Jeff Sorensen, information system leader for IT Services University Info Systems, has been at Iowa State since he was a student here in the 1990s, and he said he has seen and experienced a wide change in the LGBTQIA+ experience and culture.

“I came here as a student in 1990,” Sorensen said. “When I found out there was a gay student group on campus, you had to actually call a number. Then, you had to do a phone interview with someone. Then, someone would take you to your first meeting because they were concerned legitimately about protesters and stuff showing up and finding out who is who before the individual wanted to come out. That’s what it was like in 1990.”

On top of having to hide their sexual orientation, LGBTQIA+ individuals at Iowa State also faced other challenges on campus.

Sorensen said at one point a religious student organization put out table tents in the dining centers across campus stating that AIDS was God’s punishment for being gay. The table tents had been approved by the residence halls, Sorensen said.

“When I lived in the residence halls, people put up door decorations,” Sorensen said. “Someone created a sign which showed two stick figures having anal sex and then had a circle slash through it. The sign was hung up around campus, and the Daily covered it, and it was on the front page with a picture of the sign. Thousands of students cut it out of the Daily and put it on their dorm door. The residence halls ended up doing a policy where no one could have decorations on their door.”

The door signs were not the only anti-LGBTQIA+ message created by students, even at events celebrating the community.

“There was a National Coming Out Day rally, and a bunch of [agriculture] students brought sheep,” Sorensen said. “They had signs that said ‘If you’re gonna fuck a dude why don’t you just fuck one of these.’ In a way, it emboldened the LGBTQIA+ community to speak out.”

However, LGBTQIA+ history at Iowa State is not all negative.

Sorensen said the creation of the Queer Studies class was a big push in the right direction, and faculty using SafeZone stickers helped create a more welcoming environment.

“We have some incredible history here,” Freihoefer said. “There is MBLGTACC, which was hosted by Drake and Iowa State in 1993. That has really grown tremendously. We have one of the oldest LGBTQIA+ centers on a college or university in the country, which is really amazing.”

The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success, other offices on campus and many LGBTQIA+ student organizations are hosting several events for students and community involvement. The following events have been scheduled and listed on The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website:

Coming Out Circle

Time and date: 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Where: 290 Carver Hall

Description: “Join folks from across campus in a safe and supportive environment to tell your story.” Hosted by Pride Alliance.

Coming Out Day Pop Up Photo Shoot

Time and date: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11 (National Coming Out Day).

Where: The Center Space, 3224 Memorial Union

Description: “Celebrate National Coming Out Day with a personalized pride pic! Stop by The Center and create a unique photo to express your connections and commitment to LGBTQIA+ communities. We’ll have pride flags and some other fun props that you can use to take your photo to the next level of fabulous. All are welcome to participate!” Hosted by the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success.

Ames Community All-Ages Drag Show

Time and date: 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Where: Ames Public Library, 515 Douglas Ave.

Description: “Drag is for everyone! Grab your people and check out free all age-friendly performances by professional and amateur drag performers at our 5th All Ages Drag Show. We’re also inviting you to perform in drag! People of all ages and experience levels are invited to perform solo or in a group.” Hosted by the Ames Public Library and Ames Pride.

To register, contact Tanvi at [email protected]

Fall Drag Show (Halloween Edition)

Time and date: 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, November 2.

Where: Great Hall, Memorial Union

Description: “Come out and see the Kings, Queens, and everything in between! There will be special guest performers and proceeds will go to supporting ISU students attending MBLGTACC.” Hosted by the Pride Alliance.

For the full list of events go to the Center’s website.