UC Davis celebrates LGBTQIA community with annual PRIDE month

  • JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE

PRIDE coordinators discuss purpose of month, planning, events

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In recognition of May as Pride month, the UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA) Resource Center plans to celebrate the diversity and importance of LGBTQIA individuals within the campus community.

“I believe Pride month is a way for our community to get together and form solidarity between other communities – to show who we are and be proud of our identities,” said Pride Month Planning-Committee Leader and second-year Native American studies and history double major Valentin Sierra. “There’s a lot of shame and stigma around identifying as LGBTQIA, so [we’re] combating that, and [it’s about] really accepting ourselves and showing we are awesome individuals.”

Although previously having been a week-long event, this year’s Pride includes workshops, conferences, a talent show and many other activities throughout the entire month of May. This year’s event also features three special performances: DARKMATTER, a trans south-Asian performance art duo, activist and author Dan Savage, as well as a highly-anticipated visit from actress and LGBTQIA activist Laverne Cox. Dan Savage will be speaking at the Mondavi Center tomorrow at 8 p.m.

“For the month of May we’ll have the whole [LGBTQIA] community be incredibly visible and active,” said second-year English major and Pride Youth Education Conference Subcommittee Chair Alison Tam. “Pride month is a way to bring the larger LGBTQIA community closer together. It’s going to be huge. We’re going to have so many events. You’re going to see so many people around wearing the t-shirts and it’s something you really can’t ignore.”

Although the center has been planning for Pride since fall quarter, planning for subcommittees, such as Tam’s Pride Youth Education Conference Committee, started in winter quarter.

“We’re inviting high school students and others in the Davis area to come [to the Youth Education Conference] and learn about social justice,” Tam said. “We’re hoping that the high schoolers who attend will just learn a lot more about social justice, learn about identity – it’s the kind of thing that a lot of LGBTQIA communities desperately need to learn. It’s easy for teenagers to not really have the resources that they need.”

Second-year science and technology studies major and the Out List Social Subcommittee Chair Alexis Caligiuri has been working for the very last Pride event of the month on May 29: the “Out List social.”

“The Out List is a list of faculty, staff and graduate students who are openly LGBTQIA individuals. [The Out List social] provides networking possibilities, resources and it’s specifically to address a few campus climate issues,” Caligiuri said. “Let’s say that you’re a queer student here and you’ve applied for a LGBTQIA specific scholarship and it requires a letter of recommendation from your professor, and you’re afraid of approaching one of your professors – suddenly you and your desire to be able to fund your education are politicized. If you know your professor is openly LGBTQIA, it’s not like you’re coming out to somebody where you can’t anticipate their reaction – it’s so much more comfortable.”

UC Davis Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, who is a member of the Out List, was instrumental in getting a hundred new responses this year in anticipation of Pride’s Out List social.

Tam, who has also been working on the Out List, said the Out List social is a way for LGBTQIA students to network, discuss research and provide role models to help students relate to those in the professional world as fellow members of the LGBTQIA community.

“[PRIDE week is about] not living in fear,” Caligiuri said. “Visibility has always been important to the community. [Also PRIDE is] so fun and it allows people to be queer and have their queerness be celebrated instead of attacked and treated as a bad trait. [Pride] is getting to embrace who you are in a really enjoyable way.”

In addition to the Youth Education Conference and Out List social, there are various other events during PRIDE month hoping to bring together the LGBTQIA community such as Gayme Night, the Genitalia Fair and the Queer Talent Show.

“I’m most excited for the queer talent show on May 22,” Sierra said. “I think normally other cultural days put on an open mic, [but] with this we’re trying to broadly encompass talent. We’re going to have groups come and dance, we’ll have drag performers, people sing, people doing open mic things.”

Not only is this year’s Pride the first month-long event, but it is also the first Pride event at UC Davis that has not been funded by ASUCD.

“Being able to expand [Pride] to a month and having the resources to be able to do that speaks tremendously to how strong as a community we are and how resilient we are,” said Sierra. “It shows we are here, we are queer, we are wonderful people and we work hard.”

Photos by Jian Gelvezon.