LGBTQ+ people have been a part of human history since the beginning of time. Knowing this, may lead most individuals with questions like, why did it take until 1994 for there to be a designated LGBTQ+ History Month? Why did it take until 2015 for gay marriage to be legalized in the United States? Why did it take so long for LGBTQ+ campus organizations to be allowed at the University of Alabama (UA)? 

Even though some questions about LGBTQ+ acceptance may always go unanswered, there are some answers to UA’s LGBTQ+ history, present and future in the fairly new age of diversity, equity and inclusion.


The Safe Zone is the perfect place for LGBTQIA+ students to relax in between classes and unwind from stressful days in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 2, 2021. 

In February 1983, amid the AIDS epidemic, UA students had formulated a registration for the Gay Student Union, which would become the first queer organization of any kind on Alabama’s campus. Although it was ready for approval in February, it didn’t become accepted and recognized until September of that year. 

After its delayed acceptance, problems continued to arise. The Alabama House of Representatives banned the use of public funding supporting “any group that [promoted] a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.” This bill led the Student Government Association (SGA) to decline funding for LGBTQ+ organizations. 

The battle continued among a divided university filled with homophobic political cartoons in local newspapers, political meetings and faculty petitions. Fortunately, the SGA repealed their resolution months later.

There was a long line of struggles and failed attempts for equality towards the LGBTQ+ community on UA’s campus, but it has progressed little by little over the years. 

“It was just a training program for a really long time, like the better part of a decade,” said Jesse Rentz, president of Spectrum, the modern version of the Gay Student Union. 

Rentz put together an organized timeline of queer organizations’ history at UA as a personal project last semester and has a strong passion for where UA has been and where it is going for LGBTQ+ students. 

“A lot of the queer community progress, at UA specifically, has been super recent,” Rentz said. 

Aside from being the president of Spectrum, Rentz is also the Communications and Outreach Coordinator for UA’s Safe Zone, the LGBTQ+ resource center on campus.

The Safe Zone wasn’t established as an office until 2014, just a year shy of the legalization of same-sex marriage. It wasn’t until 2016 when the Safe Zone Student Lounge was opened for student members to gather and use it for recreational activities. 

“I think all the time about how community shapes us and how I am currently doing the types of things that I admired people for doing my freshman year like organizing get togethers, running support groups, and helping freshmen come out of their shell,” Rentz said

Located on the second floor of the Ferguson Student Center, the UA Safe Zone offers a comfortable space for LGBTQIA+ students on campus in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 2, 2021.


Spectrum is community and philanthropy-oriented and essentially where a lot of freshmen end up, like Skyler Busse, a UA freshman from Springfield, Missouri.

Busse openly spoke about her experiences with the LGBTQ+ organizations on campus and her journey to finding comfortability in her sexual orientation.  

She first attended Rainbow Connection, a support and resilience-building group for LGBTQ+ students that ended up being her comfort zone.

“We’ll just talk about things and it’s nice to be able to put everything out in the open in a room full of people you know you’re safe with. Half of the time you say something and someone else in the room is like, ‘I’ve experienced that same exact thing.’ It’s very reassuring,” Busse said.

One way to relax in the Safe Zone is with arts and crafts or painting nails in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 2, 2021. 

Skyler Busse, Spectrum’s social chair, in front of Denny Chimes in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 6, 2021.

After her experience with Rainbow Connection and building deep relationships with the weekly group, Busse started to get involved with Spectrum. Today, Busse is set to be the Spectrum Social Chair for the next school year.

“Everyone on the executive board and all the members made me feel really at home so I want to be able to do that for new members in the future,” Busse said.

She has high hopes for the Fall and taking on the leadership role in Spectrum. She also emphasizes the importance of making the campus’s LGBTQ+ community have a “home away from home” feel for all current members and newcomers.


As for the future of LGBTQ+ on campus, it is on the verge of extreme expansion. 

“In the past few years, we have had this absolute explosion of new queer organizations on campus, which has been great to see because they are all specialized,” Rentz said. 

Some of the organizations Rentz spoke about include oSTEM for undergrad STEM students, Out for Business (O4B), GRADient for graduate students, OutLAW for law school students and Providing Resources and Identity and Sexuality for Minorities (PRISM).  

Alex Williams, the founder, and president of PRISM, said its purpose is to create a safe space for Black indigenous people of color (BIPOC) who identify as LGBTQ+. It was originally focused on African Americans, but Williams found that it was necessary for all minorities. 

The Safe Zone is the perfect place for LGBTQIA+ students to relax in between classes and unwind from stressful days in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 2, 2021. 

LGBTQIA+ students can write their name on these leaves and add them to a beautiful tree of names and flags representing their sexuality in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 2, 2021.

Williams explained that she knew she wanted to start an organization like PRISM before even coming to UA’s campus because despite all the accessible resources for LGBTQ+, there was nothing specified for BIPOC. 

“Other organizations are definitely not as diverse, not as inclusive, not as welcoming as I wanted PRISM to be,” Williams said. 

PRISM was founded and accepted as an on-campus organization officially in Spring of 2019. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, PRISM only had one semester in the fall of meetings, fundraisers, drives and events.

Since this setback, the main source of information and membership involvement comes from the organization’s social media, specifically Instagram. Williams uses social media to spread positive quotes, promote Black-owned businesses, minority bloggers and more. 

Since most plans for PRISM are yet to be confirmed, it is hard to say what the organization will prosper into. However, now that capacities are extending and vaccines are circulating around the country, Williams has high hopes for next school year. 

After diving into the history, present and future of LGBTQ+ organizations on UA’s campus, it reveals the importance of clubs and communities that revolve around a group that has struggled to be accepted in society. With a campus full of young adults who will define the future mindsets of the nation, LGBTQ+ organizations should be acknowledged, respected and celebrated by the Tide.