LGBT History Month honored with calls to action

Members+of+university+community+celebrate+flag+raising%2C+Oct.+1%2C+West+Haven+

Rebecca Chan-Chao

Members of university community celebrate flag raising, Oct. 1, West Haven

Isabelle Hajek, Opinions Editor

On Oct. 1, the start of LGBT History month was marked with PRIDE’s annual Progressive Pride flag-raising ceremony in partnership with the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion at the Kayo Field flag pole.

While June is Pride Month, October is dedicated to the history of the LGBTQ+ community through both their struggles and victories. Nationally recognized in 1995, the month is meant to highlight landmark events in the community such as Stonewall and The First March on Washington. National Coming Out Day is on Oct. 11, dedicated to recognizing the range of situations and emotions that are attributed to a queer person publically claiming their identity.

This year’s ceremony was marked by a reverence for the progress made for the community and a cry to continue fighting for progress for not only those in the university community but for all LGBTQ+ individuals globally.

The event included a series of university speakers, hosted by Ian Shick, the assistant director of LGBTQ+ Resources in the Myatt Center. They first presented Alvin Tran, assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion to speak.

Tran began his address by recounting a trip to Madrid, Spain in the summer of 2015. While there one day, he noticed an abundance of Pride flags flying from windows, while more were still being put out. He said that he joked, “Clearly this is all for me.” In reality, this was just one part of the world celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court expanding the right to marry to same-sex couples.

He called the crowd to action in the continuing fight for the protection of LGBTQ+ individuals locally, and around the world. He also asked for the assembled to vote in elections at all levels of government.

Finally, he said, “Today, and the rest of this month, we celebrate LGBT history, but every single day we continue our fight to make history.”

PRIDE president Nicole Sotto highlighted Rodney Wilson, a history teacher who helped establish the month, and said that the LGBT community is the only marginalized group not formally included in the history curriculum anywhere in the world other than Scotland.

After citing steps towards progress on campus, such as the name change form, gender-neutral bathrooms and thanking those who made change possible, Sotto said, “My hope is that we continue to advocate for changes and make our community even more visible on campus by holding educational events and to continue to encourage acceptance within the diverse population of our community.”

Patrick McGrady, associate sociology professor spoke about the progression of LGBTQ+ rights first by quoting Audra Lorde: “My silences had not protected me, your silence will not protect you.”

He said how it is important for members of the community and allies to speak up because silence is dangerous.

“We should never be complacent with progress,” he said, “and LGBTQ+ rights progress is “chaotic, ongoing, and constantly changing.”

McGrady said that despite many wins, the community still faces hurdles at the local and global levels.

“Tolerance is simply not enough,” he said, and, quoting activist Bayard Rustin, promoted “Angelic troublemakers” who need to “be unafraid to speak up, push for more curriculum and programming and funding that gives LGBTQ+ students more space, call for a more intersectional policy that understands the nuances of identities amongst our community, push for professors or supervisors or administrators or e-board to take this movement seriously.”

Shick shared upcoming Pride-related events hosted by the Myatt Center. For National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, the center hosted a “Coming Out Stories” event at 7 p.m. followed by a “Chalk the Quad” event where the university community left affirming messages to the community bordering the Bixler-Gerber Quad.

To close the program, Zanaiya Léon, assistant director of the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, said that this is the first year the center has had a staff of three and that there has been a position dedicated to LGBTQ+ resources, held by Shick. She also invited everyone to visit the Myatt Center.

PRIDE holds weekly meetings at 9 p.m. in Westside 111 with a Zoom option available. The full flag-raising ceremony is available to watch on PRIDE’s Instagram.