March 8, 2018
For the second consecutive year, Phillip Ayoub, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Politics, is hosting the Drexel LGBTQ Speaker Series. The series, generally held over lunch, includes talks from scholars researching LGBTQ Politics. Speakers shed light on the spread of LGBTQ rights, LGBTQ backlash, coalitions across social justice groups, and the functionality of LGBTQ movements across the world. This year, the LGBTQ Speaker Series features four scholars and runs from February 7th to March 14th.
The inspiration for the LGBTQ Speaker Series came during fall of 2015 when Ayoub taught a course on LGBTQ Politics – still a marginalized topic concerning the political movements and rights of the LGBTQ community. The course brought together students across many different colleges, and Ayoub realized these diverse students wanted more spaces to express and learn about sexual orientations and gender identities during their time in college. Starting in spring of 2017, Ayoub invited six scholars from diverse disciplines to speak about international LGBTQ politics. On average, 50 people attended each of the six speakers' presentations. After their talks, many of the scholars reached out to Ayoub to express how impressed they felt with the Drexel students' level of engagement with their topics. Beyond creating a space at the event, Ayoub works to connect the speakers and students informally to discuss LGBTQ politics over coffee.
Speakers for the LGBTQ Speaker Series come from various parts of the globe to speak about their research in LGBTQ politics. The scope of the talks ranges from global perspectives (such as Kelly Kollman's "LGBTQI Politics in an Era of Globalization: Visibility, Rights Expansion and Backlash") to LGBTQ issues within smaller communities (like Alice Coffin's "Why French politics and France's cultural background make it difficult for LGBTs to be out and visible in France") to coalitions between LGBTQ groups and other social justice movements (such as Erin Adam's "Queer Alliances: Paradoxes and Power in the Formation of Rights-Based Movements"). LGBTQ movements have operated internationally since the late 1800s, and Ayoub finds that some of the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community are shared across country borders. He cites same-sex marriage as an example of the transnational nature of the LGBTQ movement: "What was not too long ago a radical idea, that two people of the same sex could be married, is now becoming legal in many countries." Ayoub believes that having scholars speak about LGBTQ issues across many countries helps those in Drexel's community to understand the complexities of queer experiences, what is shared and what is different beyond their local community's struggles. For allies and colleagues for whom the issue is less personal, the series sheds light on a fascinating topic of political and social transformation globally that social science is beginning to explain.
Ayoub also highlights that the series is run on a shoestring budget – all speakers volunteer their time to speak in the series, and during the first year, Ayoub often opened his home to the speakers to avoid accommodation expenses. Funding from various departments and offices across Drexel helps contribute toward the costs of lunch at the event and dinner with the speaker after the event. This funding has allowed Ayoub to expand the series, but he still relies heavily on his network to bring both junior and senior scholars to talk to the Drexel community. With the support and engagement from students, Ayoub feels hopeful that the series will expand to attract more speakers and continued engagement from across the university and community in future years.