Students at the University of Kansas School of Journalism on Friday released a short documentary about LGBTQ+ activism at KU over the years, completing a semesterlong project and spotlighting the queer community in Lawrence.
“Liberate LFK: The Past, Present and Future of LGBTQ+ Activism at KU,” created for the university’s Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, was posted to YouTube, and it will be featured on the Center’s website in April.
Lauren Hugo, a senior at KU who worked on the documentary, said it was an easy decision for the class to take on this project. For her personally, it was a fantastic opportunity to merge her passion for LGBTQ+ rights with schoolwork.
“This has been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever done, though I know I’m not alone in that,” Hugo said. “Definitely my favorite project that we worked on and most definitely different from anything I’ve done before at the J-school.”
When the class decided who to feature in the film, they took a special interest in making it as inclusive as possible. That’s part of what made the experience so fulfilling, Hugo said.
“We wanted to focus on encapsulating voices from not just the gay community, not just the lesbian community, but specifically people of color within those communities. We wanted to hear their voices because KU is predominantly white. We just wanted to make sure that that wasn’t the only voice being heard, or the only stories being told,” she said. “We made sure to interview a different scope of people to get different experiences and share those kinds of stories.”
Since the documentary follows Lawrence’s history with LGBTQ+ activism, it features a variety of interviewees, from current student leaders to past activists. Some of the subjects were members of the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front, which is no longer an organization but was one of the first LGBTQ activism groups at KU.
“It was an honor to get to interview them,” Hugo said.
As for the present, the documentary highlights current activists at KU and the progress they are making. Just three months ago, the KU Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity opened The Trans Closet, a resource that provides basic gender-affirming materials to transgender students at no cost. Additionally, trans students seeking to legally change their name or gender need look no further than Legal Services for Students, which has helped trans and gender-nonconforming students with these legal hurdles completely free of charge.
Student activists still have hopes for a more inclusive KU in the future and plans to make that a reality. Some of their current goals include all-gender bathrooms and adequate housing, which is a major problem for trans youth, Hugo said.
The class hopes that by amplifying the stories of LGBTQ+ activists in Lawrence, they can help lift some of the burden from people who may be struggling currently.
“We hope that by putting this film out into the universe, people who watch it may feel comforted by the stories and voices that are in this film. You’ll hear in the film itself that people think just being a part of this was important because they knew how it was for them coming out, just wanting to feel good or comfortable and safe with who they are,” Hugo said. “We’re really proud of it.”
The video is available to watch on YouTube now, and it will be entered into the Free State Film Festival.
Here’s a trailer for the project:
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Emma Bascom (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from December 2021 through May 2022. Read more of her work for the Times here.