Pride Month celebrates lives of the past, present and future

StandOUT%2C+the+university%27s+LGBTQ%2B+alliance+organization%2C+celebrated+Transgender+Day+of+Remembrance+on+November+20+during+the+Fall+2019+semester.+The+annual+remembrance+day+honors+the+memory+of+transgender+lives+lost+as+a+result+of+discrimination+and+violence.

Courtesy of Robyn Lovetro

StandOUT, the university’s LGBTQ+ alliance organization, celebrated Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 during the Fall 2019 semester. The annual remembrance day honors the memory of transgender lives lost as a result of discrimination and violence.

June is officially acknowledged as Pride Month, an annual tradition that commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of protests that took place over multiple days after police raided a gay bar in New York. The uprising between police and protestors ultimately sparked a turning point in LGBTQ+ activism. 

Since then, Pride Month has celebrated the lives and efforts of all those within the LGBTQ+ community, including those on the university’s campus. 

Bayli Hickson, a senior elementary education major, shared what Pride Month means to her.

“To me, Pride Month is a time to celebrate who I am,” said Hickson. “I get to show everyone how proud I am to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. It allows people like me a safe time and place to come out if they haven’t already. It gives everyone the support and love that they deserve.”

Hickson shared some of the challenges that she and other members of the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis, including discriminatory comments and looks from other people.

“Especially being on social media and having the presence that I do on the platforms, I get quite a few hate comments and messages, but in my day-to-day life, I don’t really face that much,” mentioned Hickson. “If I’m out at the store or something, sometimes I get looks from people, but no one has really said anything to me, so I’ve been lucky in that aspect.”

 

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Another concern Hickson emphasized was being aware of how others may be affected by these challenges.

“I have witnessed people discriminating against others,” shared Hickson. “I kind of have to walk around and watch my back constantly because you never know who’s there and who’s gonna say something or do something.”

Zachary Rogers, coordinator for Leadership and Service in the Office for Student Engagement, shared that he came out to his friends in September 2013 and then to his family in January 2014. He explained the significance of celebrating Pride Month.

“Pride Month means taking the time to reflect on the past and acknowledging the achievements of our ancestors like Marsha P. Johnson,” said Rogers. “As a historian, I celebrate Pride Month by honoring LGBTQ+ heroes, educating people on our history and also acknowledging my personal history from coming out, to becoming comfortable in my own skin.”

Rogers mentioned Marsha P. Johnson, who he believes is one of the most prominent figures in LGBTQ+ history. Johnson was a central figure in the Stonewall Riots and continued to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights until she died in 1992. 

“I think one of the most important facts about LGBTQ+ history is that one of our leading members who fought for our rights was Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman,” said Rogers. “I think this fact is incredibly important, especially today as our community stands with the Black Lives Matter movement in the fight for justice.”

Many resources are available on campus for students, faculty and staff who want to educate themselves and actively participate in the support the university provides for Lions who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Anyone at Southeastern who is interested in educating themselves on Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community can start by reaching out to organizations on campus and start a conversation with individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ community,” said Rogers. “StandOUT is a great organization on our campus that can provide resources and a better understanding of our community. In addition to StandOUT, MISA in the Office for Student Engagement offers a Safe Space training as well.”

StandOUT is an LGBTQ+ alliance organization that promotes diversity and equality on campus. Robyn Lovetro, a junior criminal justice major, has been the president of the organization for the past two semesters. 

Lovetro explained how people on campus, both LGBTQ+ and not, can show their support for the LGBTQ+ community at the university. 

“Reach out to people that they know that are a part of the LGBTQ community,” said Lovetro. “That would be something really big. I would suggest, if it’s an LGBTQ person, there’s a group session at the counseling center that they have. Just talk to people, and really educate yourself on things.”

Lovetro shared her message for those who may need an encouraging reminder that people from all walks of life are welcome and safe at the university.

“You’re really not alone out there,” encouraged Lovetro. “There’s more LGBTQ people on campus than you think, and there’s even more allies. You don’t have to be afraid to reach out to people and make friends.”

 

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