Forty-two clubs and University-sponsored organizations welcomed incoming LGBT freshmen and allies to the University with the annual Pride Outside event at Palmer Field Monday.
Formerly known as Gayz Craze, Pride Outside is sponsored by Out in STEM, an organization that supports LGBT students in Engineering and STEM fields. The event, which attracted about 500 students, was sponsored by Central Student Government but was transferred to oSTEM two years ago when Engineering senior Sindhu Sreedhar offered to bring the event under oSTEM’s leadership.
Twelve clubs were specifically for LGBT students though all organizations represented are in support of creating safe spaces for LGBT students, including social justice and volunteer organizations.
“We try to get organizations that are really built around community building and community organizing so we can cater towards the LGBTQ community in that way,” Sreedhar said.
Designed as a Welcome Week event, Sreedhar said, one of its main purposes is to introduce incoming freshmen the resources available on campus for LGBT students. Shreedhar said the tents are placed on Palmer Field because many freshmen live on the Hill and will be easily seen by incoming students walking around their dorms.
LSA senior Victoria Johnson attended the event as a freshman and this year represented the Coalition for Queer and Trans People of Color as a co-chair. She said Pride Outside helped her find the coalition and the timing of the event couldn’t be better.
“It can be hard and daunting, especially as an incoming freshman, trying to find your community and find people that you want to socialize with and hang out with,” she said. “Having events like this, especially during Welcome Week, this is the time everyone’s going to come out.”
When President Donald Trump proposed the transgender military ban back in July, many transgender students and allies on campus reacted adversely to the news. Johnson said pro-LGBT events like Pride Outside can contribute to a positive community on campus.
“People need community now more than ever,” she said. “Having events like these is super important to show that there are people here who are going to support you and be there for you and even when it feels like everything is going wrong and the world is crumbling apart, you still have these people you can turn to.”
LSA senior Yong-Joon Kim volunteers with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and represented the organization at a booth at Pride Outside. He echoed Johnson’s sentiments and said the event is crucial for newer students trying to find resources.
“Marginalized identities, as we know, on this campus have been facing a lot of hate and negative stuff going on right now so just having an event during Welcome Week that allows LGBT students to know they’re welcome on this campus, especially one that’s catered by the student governance organizations, definitely helps show unity and acceptance on this campus,” he said.
According to the 2015 Campus Climate Survey, lesbian, gay or bisexual students were 2.5 times more at risk for sexual assault than heterosexual students. By working with SAPAC, a University sponsored program, Kim said it shows how the University is dedicated to helping LGBT students feel free to speak about sexual assault.
LSA freshman Cheyanne Killin said the large-scale event showed her how many resources she actually has on campus from clubs and students alike.
“I think it’s really nice to have this inclusion here,” she said. “It’s such a positive space and coming from a community where I didn’t have that ability to be proud of who I was, this is just massive to know that I’m supported here.”
LSA freshman Dalia Harris saw the event as a very warm welcome to a new campus.
“To me, it does mean a lot to see everyone here because sometimes when you’re at such a big school, it’s hard to tell what everyone’s identities are but seeing all these people coming together, regardless of whether they’re an ally or LGBT, it just means a lot,” Harris said.