Alum talks making the University and the country a more supportive place for the LGBTQ-plus community
Timothy Bussey ’14 MA, ’18 Ph.D. grew up in a military family near the Fort Benning Army base in Georgia. After very briefly considering enrolling in a military college, they attended a smaller state university in their hometown and then spent time abroad at the University of Oxford.
Their undergraduate advisor was an alum of UConn and shared information about the Rainbow Center. Bussey was impressed by the support provided to the LGBTQ+ community in Storrs and thought UConn was the perfect fit for postgrad studies.
They quickly became involved at the Rainbow Center, including facilitating the graduate and postdoctoral fellow group and running the Out to Lunch lecture series. That work proved to Bussey that they wanted to pursue a career in student services rather than go the tenure-track route.
Today Bussey is associate director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Kenyon College in Ohio, where they have racked up an impressive array of DEI accomplishments, particularly in the LGBTQ+ inclusion space. They were asked by the Modern Military Association of America to write the newest edition of “Freedom to Serve: The Definitive Guide to LGBTQ Military Service,” which the Biden transition team formally requested ahead of the inauguration.
Political science professor Christine Sylvester advised Bussey on their dissertation, “Lavender Security Threats: Understanding the Histories of Discrimination Against LGBT Persons in the American Military and Intelligence Community.” The two caught up recently over Zoom.
CS: You have achieved a great deal in the three years since completing your doctorate. Could you talk about a top-five achievements during that time?
TB: First, I’m very proud of “Freedom to Serve: The Definitive Guide to LGBTQ Military Service.” Second, I would highlight that when I joined Kenyon College, they had a 3.5 out of 5 ranking on the Campus Pride Index, which is the go-to inclusivity index for LGBTQ+ support services at colleges and universities across the country.
After my first year, that increased to a 4.5 out of 5. Halfway through my second year, that increased to a 5 out of 5.
I’m also definitely proud of the queer and transgender studies conference that I developed during my first year at Kenyon, which has now grown into the largest LGBTQ+ student conference in the state of Ohio.
And in terms of the fourth and fifth things, I was really proud to have planned the Newark Ohio Pride Festival, and I’m very proud to have come out as transgender and non-binary during the pandemic. For a lot of people, the pandemic really made us sit with ourselves. Gender identity is a really interesting concept that I — despite having done so many things with LGBTQ+ students and having taught women’s, gender, and sexuality studies for several years — had never actively and personally reflected upon.
CS: I’m smiling ear to ear listening to you talk about it. Is there a new project within the community or the college that you plan to start this year?
TB: I am definitely interested in growing my new organization, the Ace and Aro Alliance of Central Ohio, which is the state of Ohio’s first community organization that explicitly and specifically works to support the asexual and aromantic community.
I’d also like to transition my dissertation into a book project. And of course, there will be some expansions with the changes that we’ve seen from both the end of the Trump administration and the start of the Biden administration.
CS: I always thought that your dissertation should come out as a book. Do you have anything else that you would like to share?
TB: When I think about the fact that the dissertation is done and all of these things are happening, it does sort of leave me bewildered. When something like the request from the Biden transition team happens, I’m just always kind of amazed and surprised.
But I always end up in a place where I’m thankful for the people that have supported me. That certainly includes you, Sherry Zane with UConn Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and so many other people.
Honestly, I’ve had so many people that have been supportive to me in so many ways, both professionally and personally, and I’m just thankful for those people in my life. I really appreciate everything that they’ve done for me, and I think that’s the big takeaway here.
CS: Well, you’re certainly a credit to UConn, to Kenyon, and to your larger community.
By Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), ’19 MBA
Photo by Kendra Bryant