Though the sky remained overcast and rainfall graced the University of Michigan campus until late into the afternoon, hundreds of members of the campus community showed up Sunday for the annual Pride Outside at Palmer Field. Dozens of student organizations set up tables to welcome new and returning students to campus, and a variety of drag performances kept the energy high throughout the afternoon. 

Every year, the University’s chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM) collaborates with Central Student Government (CSG), the College of Engineering and the Spectrum Center to coordinate the celebration of LGBTQ+ identities on campus. CSG members and Spectrum Center volunteers were interacting with students, handing out pronoun pins and “Michigan Pride” t-shirts throughout the event.

CSG president Noah Zimmerman, LSA senior, and CSG chief of staff Meera Herle, LSA junior, also handed out t-shirts and greeted students at the event. Zimmerman said he was excited by the number of students who had shown up wearing rainbow attire and were participating in the activities, despite the adverse weather.

“Seeing all the students coming out here, especially on such a rainy day, is really great to see,” Zimmerman said. “The turnout is impressive and it’s been nice to see everyone get involved.”

Herle discussed how the event’s location helped bring in new students. With the Hill Neighborhood having a number of freshman dorms, she was glad to see freshmen stopping by.

“Being on the Hill, we’ve noticed a lot of freshmen coming here and we’re happy to have an opportunity to connect with new students,” Herle said. “For them to see all the opportunities and resources available is great.”

After being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions on large in-person events, Pride Outside returned to Palmer Field last year. Since its rebranding in 2015, Pride Outside has been an important part of “Welcome Week” — the first week of classes at the University —  Steven Dunne, LSA senior and oSTEM board member, explained. 

“As you’re coming into college as a freshman or a first year or as a transfer student, it can be hard to find community,” Dunne said. “Community is very central to the queer identity because we are often cast out of a lot of different spaces. We’re creating a space at the beginning of the semester to start off the school year strong and know that you have people who support you.” 

Lorant Peeler, a program specialist for education and training at the Spectrum Center, also emphasized the importance of returning to a safe space on campus. Peeler discussed how queer individuals can sometimes experience isolation, both at home and at school, and why Pride Outside is important as a welcome and celebration for members of the Michigan community. 

“Students come (to the University) and we’re here with open arms,” Peeler said. “Pride Outside is a great anchor for people who are returning, maybe from an unsafe space, or just as a welcome back to a queer space.”

Information graduate student Hannah Stanton-Gockel, a self-proclaimed “semi-retired circus performer,” roller-skated and hula-hooped in front of the crowd at Pride Outside. She told The Daily the energy at the event was palpable, even from the stage.

“There’s a lot of energy I think in the first one to two months, being in a new place,” Stanton-Gockel said. “When you can get people who are feeling less stressed and super excited to be on a new adventure, you can really harness that energy by having events like this where people feel accepted and like a part of the community. Finding community is what going to university is all about.”

For the second year in a row, the Heads over Heels drag troupe performed at Pride Outside. Many students cited the drag performances, which spanned several hours, as their favorite part of the event. Each performance was unique, with the queens lip-synching and shaking their sparkly tutus to a variety of songs from ’90s hits to Lady Gaga.

Drag queen Alternia lip-synched to “Decode” by Paramore in a Twilight-themed number. Auroara Manifesto, dressed in black and silver sequins, performed “Bigger” by Beyonce. ElleXL, in matching patchwork denim halter-top and bootcut jeans, lip-synched to “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd.

Zooey Gaychanel, another drag queen who performed at Pride Outside last year, was back on the stage emceeing the performances this year and ended the show with a memorable final performance. Having recently just come out as transgender, she celebrated her new identity with the crowd during her performance, playing an audio recording that she told the crowd she hopes provides insight into her experience as a trans and nonbinary person.

She told the crowd she hopes her shared experience resonates with every person at Pride Outside and reminds them to be confident in their identities, no matter where they are.

“My experience of my transness is not an exclusively physical experience. It’s not about changing from one gender to another,” Gaychanel said in the audio recording that was played at Pride Outside Sunday. “It’s about reclaiming autonomy over how I see myself and how I move through the world.”

Daily Staff Reporter Teagan Stebbins can be reached at

Correction 09/08/2022: This article has been updated to include the College of Engineering as a collaborator for the Pride Outside event.

Correction 09/11/2022: This article has been updated to correctly label Hannah Stanton-Gockel as a master’s student in the School of Information.