Monday was the start of Texas Tech University’s Pride Week 2020. One of the first events it kicked off with was the Zoom webinar over LGBTQIA+ history in the U.S.
Roman Konopa, introduced the Student Intersectional Leadership Council and led the presentation. He is a representative for this group.
Konopa introduced SILC at the beginning of the presentation.
“Our mission is to bring visibility and empowerment to Texas Tech University’s diverse student body, to serve, represent and include the marginalized and to facilitate cultural competency throughout the community through education and engagement,” Konopa said.
The presentation began with Konopa discussing LGBTQIA laws in the 1960s. Research was cited towards the end of the slideshow.
“In the 60s, there were a lot of discriminatory laws,” Konopa said. “There were judgements against transgender people.”
Konopa said that many black transgender women were targeted.
“Police could simply look at someone and deem their clothing ‘not appropriate’ for their gender, which at the time meant ‘sex,’” Konopa said.
The presentation also featured facts on the Stonewall Riots
“Keep in mind the Stonewall Riots took place in New York City,” Konopa said, “which at the time was a more generally accepting area than other places in the U.S.”
Konopa said that police would raid gay bars and arrest people for homosexual activity.
“New York City had plenty of gay bars and clubs, and the Stonewall Inn happened to be one of the more popular ones,” Konopa said. “The gay community had to tread so lightly.”
Konopa included a photo of what the Stonewall Inn looked like in the 60s compared to today, and said that the Mafia bribed police to not raid bars so they could keep their money but the police persisted.
“The customers and bartenders there had different plans,” Konopa said. “They fought back, they resisted arrest, they were fighting the cops and while all of this chaos was happening, a crowd of hundreds had developed outside of the bar, so it was both inside and outside. They were pushing past barricades, they were throwing bottles, throwing bricks, anything they could get their hands on to use as a weapon.”
Konopa said that the Stonewall Riots lasted four days. He went on to introduce Marsha P. Johnson during the webinar.
“She is really like the face of our community,” Konopa said. “She was essentially the mother of this movement, you know, she fought for both gay and trans rights even though a lot of gay men were against her and would not let her speak at certain things.”
Konopa said Johnson was a black transgender woman from New Jersey, and that Johnson would tell people her middle name stood for “Pay It No Mind.”
“She’d survived being shot by a man who didn’t want to pay for sex work, so I just think it was truly remarkable just to, like, think about all of these movements she participated in and orchestrated all while having a bullet still in her spine,” Konopa said on Johnson.
Another individual Konopa discussed was Sylvia Rivera, who Konopa said marched during the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
“It was called the Christopher Street Liberation Day, and Marsha was in the very front with her good friend Sylvia Rivera,” Konopa said.
Konopa said Rivera called herself a self-identified queer Latina drag queen who was a transgender activist.
“Not only did she fight for binary transgender rights, but she made sure not to exclude gender non-conforming people,” Konopa said.
As Rivera grew sick with liver cancer, Konopa said she was still promoting activism.
“I really cannot further express how much Sylvia fought for trans rights,” Konopa said. “She was on her death bed dying from liver cancer and she still met with the Empire State Pride Agenda to just discuss how they could further push trans equality just as much as gay and lesbian equality, just weeks before her death.”
Viet Nguyen, a member of the Planning Committee at the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement, said she thinks we need to have more senior living homes for LGBT people.
“Sylvia Rivera died alone, she died homeless and we need to think about our LGBTQ seniors in the near future,” Nguyen said.
Konopa said he agreed with Nguyen.
Konopa then went on to talk about actress Christine Jorgensen, who he said was one of the most famous people in America in 1953.
“She was born in 1926 and was known for being one of the first Americans to undergo gender reassignment surgery,” Konopa said.
As a form of thanks to the doctor whose name was Christian, Konopa said Jorgenson changed her name to Christine, and was then open to talking to the press.
Konopa said Jorgenson passed away to bladder and lung cancer in 1989.
One of the last people was Bayard Rustin, who Konopa said worked with Martin Luther King Jr.
“He gave speeches, attended protests, he was a hidden figure behind the black movement for civil rights and freedom,” Konopa said. “He was forced to do a lot of his work behind closed doors because he was an openly gay man.”
Stephen Chao, an administrator at the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement, discussed public health and sexual health.
Chao said policies like ‘No Promo Homo’ laws and ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws are still applied in Texas where anything related to homosexuality must be framed in your education as ‘not an acceptable lifestyle.’
“So that is still baked in our laws,” Chao said. “It definitely still shows a lot about where, kind of de jure the guidelines around our curricula are still at.”
For more information on Texas Tech University’s Pride Week, visit