PRIDE Week highlights diversity of experiences

by Estephanie Aquino | 5/3/15 7:25pm

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PRIDE Week, a week-long celebration dedicated to raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender issues, wraps up today with a talk by keynote speaker and prominent transgender activist Janet Mock. Highlights of the week included an HIV screening in Collis Common Ground on Wednesday, a cookout on the Collis Center patio on Thursday and a series of lectures and discussions throughout the week.

Gustavo Mercado Muñiz ’16, one of three PRIDE committee chairs, said that the goal of this year’s PRIDE week was to highlight the identities and experiences that are normally ignored in mainstream media. He noted that he hoped the programming of this year’s events helped raise awareness of the movement for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Francis Slaughter ’16, who served as co-chair for this years’ event programming, added that although he believes there is a general consensus on campus that gay rights are important, he wanted programming to highlight other issues that are over looked. He said that every event was intentionally planned to achieve this goal.

“It was important for us to complicate the conversation so that more voices were heard, specifically persons of color and other marginalized identities,” he said.

Both Slaughter and Mercado said attendance and participation has increased during their time at Dartmouth.

Slaughter said that as a freshman he was not aware of PRIDE Week’s existence, but that he credits recent years attendance growth to the emphasis the programming committee has placed on creating greater awareness through advertisements.

“Honestly, I think that PRIDE has grown in as an event in people’s consciousness and attendance to our events and support has definitely improved,” Mercado said.

Slaughter added that he has been pleased with participation turnouts because it is often difficult for Dartmouth students to make room in their schedules to attend these sorts of events.

The growth in attendance was visible Thursday afternoon from the steps of Collis Porch as crowds of students surrounded the steps of the porch to eat free food at the cook out.

Students who attended the event said they were delighted to see the community come together to support the movement.

“I didn’t know that our school celebrated PRIDE week until the cookout,” Angelina Lionetta ’18 said.

She added that event inspired her to continue learning more about LGBTQ issues.

“PRIDE week got me interested in learning more about current issues,” Lionetta said. “I went online and started reading more articles.”

While this PRIDE week’s activities included programming to encourage casual conversation, more serious topics were discussed intimate group settings.

An HIV screening co-sponsored by Dick’s House was included in the weekly programming.

Slaughter said that he looks forward to the HIV screening each year.

“We had made great strides in the ’90s to reverse the trend of the disease and it is extremely important that we don’t rest on our laurels on this deadly disease,” Slaughter said.

Mercado Muñiz said that planning for this year’s PRIDE week began early in the winter term. The schedule for this year’s events included those ranging from discussions with professionals about transgender mental health to social events such as a barbeque cookout.

Justin Maffett ’16, co-chair of Spectra, which cosponsored some PRIDE Week events, said he felt the dialogue was a valuable way for students from across campus to interact in a safe space. Some students told him they came away feeling they saw a new perspective, he said, though some told him they felt there were not strong takeaways.

Maffett said there was some tension among those planning events since while there are some elements of a common experience for members of the queer community at Dartmouth, in many ways every individual has a unique experience depending on individual identities and backgrounds.

“There’s a lot of privilege that some members of the community have that others don’t in terms of getting through Dartmouth,” Maffett said.

Some planning PRIDE events felt a greater effort could be made to be in tune to experiences of those that may not have the same privileges as others within the community, he said. In planning a dance party at Bones Gate fraternity in particular, he said some had concerns over holding the event at the fraternity, partly due to a bias incident that occurred there in the past.

Maffett said there is a need for a non-Greek social space for LGBTQ students on campus.

This PRIDE week’s activities included programming that encouraged casual conversation and those that addresses more serious topics in intimate group settings.

Women and gender studies professor Eng-Beng Lim facilitated a discussion and dialogue titled “I Am my Own Queer Life” last Saturday. The event included intimate conversation among students who shared their experiences embracing their queer identities. The event looked at issues regarding Asian queer sensibility and queer experiences within Asian cultures.

Other events held included a discussion and performance by the Ballroom institute in Sarner Underground. Members of the Ballroom Institute facilitated this event and opened the event with a brief explanation of their work. The event concluded with a brief tutorial where the audience was given the opportunity to participate in “voguing.”

The Ballroom Institute discussed how the American ballroom scene acted as an underground LGBTQ subculture.

One of the performers elaborated on the strong sense of community that is shared in the groups. He added that since his adolescence, the ballroom scene provided him with social support and fostered creative expression as it has for many queer people of color.

He said that he found stability and acceptance from the ballroom community after not receiving support from family or friends.

“I was 19 and had exhausted my resources, moving into and out of my friends’ homes after being kicked out of my own,” he said. “I had nowhere to go, then I found the Ballroom Institute.”

On Sunday, students and community leaders were honored for their work related to the LGBTQ movement at the PRIDE awards banquet.

“I’m hoping that this year’s PRIDE events start to bring together the LGBTQ community and educate people on the leagues we still have to go in the movement for equal rights,” Mercado Muñiz.

Maffett found the week as a whole to be successful but stressed the importance of keeping the conversations raised during PRIDE Week active through the rest of the year.

“It’s unfortunate that Dartmouth stops for a moment — only for a week — to discuss these issues that are becoming more relevant to a growing demographic on campus,” he said. “Overall I think the student body and the administration need to start becoming more in tune and aware of what we discuss during PRIDE Week but also see how that applies to students’ lives and perspectives every day.”

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