Scott Burden (left), director of The Pride Center; Tyler Katz (middle), the Engagement and Programming Associate for Lehigh's University Hillel; and Stephen Deduck (right), International Student and Scholar Advisor.(Courtesy of Scott Burden, Tyler Katz and Stephen Deduck.)

The Out List promotes LGBTQ+ faculty, staff visibility


The Pride Center’s Out List allows queer Lehigh faculty and staff to publicly identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Faculty and Staff Pride Network established the list in 2018. Now, the list includes 34 members across a variety of identities and academic departments.

“The initial intention (of the Out List) was to promote the visibility of LGBTQ+ faculty and staff members with the hopes that it would increase queer students’ sense of belonging on campus,” said Scott Burden, director of The Pride Center.

Burden said the list is voluntary, so there is no pressure on faculty and staff to share their identity if they are uncomfortable doing so. Those who choose to disclose themselves can add their name, pronouns, contact information and a short blurb. 

Tyler Katz, engagement and programming associate for Lehigh Hillel and the Office of Jewish Student Life, joined the Out List a year and a half ago. In Katz’s blurb, they welcome people to reach out.

“I want to provide a safe space for anyone as an LGBTQ+ resource: students, staff or other members of the community,” Katz said. “I also just want to be out and proud about who I am.”

The list provides a community of queer people who are comfortable being out and speaking about their experiences to students who may be questioning their identity.

Burden said positive representation is important for both academic and personal growth.

“Having possibility models — like people you can see yourself within — or mentorship opportunities across shared identities has been proven to increase a sense of belonging which, in turn, increases academic achievement for students,” Burden said.

Stephen Deduck, advisor for the Office of International Students and Scholars, is another member of the Out List. He said he thinks having positive LGBTQ+ representation when he was young would have helped him understand his identity earlier in life.

He said even though he grew up in a queer-friendly environment, he often felt “broken” because he didn’t have the language to describe how he felt.

“It was assumed you were straight, and if you weren’t straight you were gay,” Deduck said.

He said the lack of information about people who identified outside of the accepted gay or straight binary prevented him from understanding his sexuality until later in life.

Deduck, who identifies on the asexual spectrum, said asexuality is less talked about compared to other sexual orientations. He said he didn’t encounter the word “asexual” until his freshman year of college.

“When I saw (the word ‘asexual’) on a poster when I was a freshman, I was shocked,” Deduck said. “I just stood there and realized ‘This is me. There are people like me.’”

Jen Rieder, coordinator for the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs, said she would have appreciated having access to queer representation when she was a college student, too.

She said stories about successful and happy queer adults, especially in academic fields, need to be more mainstream.

“Just to know that there are people like me and who identify like that out there just living their lives could have helped me,” Reider said. 

She hopes the list gains more attention so it can provide resources to more students tackling identity issues.

The Out List, Burden said, serves as a uniquely valuable resource to hear about the queer experience through the lens of Lehigh community members. This helps to spread truthful information about LGBTQ+-related topics.

“If the only things you hear about LGBTQ+ people are myths or are generally disseminated by non-LGBTQ people, you’re not really getting any accurate understanding,” Katz said.

Burden said higher education was historically created for and by straight white men. Although there have been pushes for diversity, he said there is often still a legacy of exclusion within higher education institutions.

He said the Out List helps to change the traditional look of academia to more accurately reflect Lehigh’s culture and give a face to underrepresented groups by highlighting valued community members.

“There are queer people at Lehigh,” Deduck said. “There are queer people everywhere, and it’s not something that should be hidden or a mystery or just assumed and brushed under the rug. It should be talked about, normalized and celebrated.”

Burden said he encourages more LGBTQ+ faculty and staff to join the Out List if they feel comfortable — not only for the benefit of students but also to strengthen interfaculty connections across departments.

Rieder said a lack of representation leads people to isolate and hide their true selves, and the Out List hopes to change this.

“This is helpful for students or even adults who are still figuring out who they are,” Rieder said. “Not being isolated and not feeling like you’re the only one can be life-changing.”

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