“Being gay is the only identity where people will hate you, your family might hate you, and God could hate you.” Words Brian Buford, the director of the LGBT Center heard when he first came out as a gay man in 1988.
He originally came to Louisville to pursue a path of ministry, but decided to earn his masters in counseling psychology. “I often thought about who I was as a young person… Not knowing what to do, or who to talk to, or what even being gay meant… I always think back to what I could have had back then to make it easier for me.” That was 25 years ago, and today for many students, LGBT has become a part of their life and identity.
For the seven years it has been recognized on campus, the LGBT community has made champion strides at UofL. This year, they hosted Pride week keynote Richard Blanco, White House representative well known by both the Latino and gay community for his poetry as the fifth inaugural poet of the United States — and first gay and first Latino inaugural poet, at that. Claiming he often had to “negotiate with his identities in America,” Blanco recited many of his poems to the Louisville community last Monday evening, enticing the crowd with mental pictures from his childhood, illustrated by his most notable works such as “America,” “The Gulf Motel” and “One Today.”
This year, student Tania Avalos, introduced Blanco. She referred to herself as a “student ambassador, a Latina, feminist, lesbian… a perfect combination if you ask me.” She said growing up, it was hard for her to find a role model that carried all these traits, going back and forth between Hilary Clinton, Shakira, and Ricky Martin. She finally found a man who embraced all these identities beautifully: Richard Blanco.
Pride Week is now one of the busiest weeks on UofL’s campus, boasting over 23 events and 50 sponsors who support the five-day event. Among their numerous cookouts, LGBT hosted a Louisville AIDS walk, meditation sessions, a documentary presented by the Women and Gender Studies department called “Masculinity and Femininity” by Russell Sheaffer, marriage equality classes free, confidential HIV testing and discussions “addressing diversity and inclusion as a key role in health care,” with dignitaries in the medical field.
Buford disclosed his lifework through the LGBT center, “It took me a long time to realize I was going to be okay, and find a community where others were out,” he said. “All of that fuels my deep belief of why we do this here, and why it needs to be easy for students to find a community.”