Board members share their perspectives on Pride celebrations, planning the first Pride Festival on campus and goals for future years
By MALERIE HURLEY — email@example.com
If you were near Dunloe Brewing Co. on the warm evening of May 21, you would have heard an outpour of cheers from a large group of Davis students tucked into the back patio of the bar. On a small makeshift stage, drag performers donning exuberant clothing and makeup performed in celebration of the Pride Month festivities put on by the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center.
Students in the crowd were ecstatic, applauding the performers’ joy and the art of drag and singing along with as much intensity as those onstage. The event was one of the many that the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center has put on throughout May, which is Pride Month at UC Davis, to give visibility and celebrate LGBTQ+ joy among Davis students. This year, UC Davis’ Pride Month will conclude with the first-ever Pride Festival on campus, set to take place on June 3. This festival will come at the tail-end of Pride on campus, but it will kick off nationally-recognized Pride Month, held in June.
While Pride is commonly thought of as a celebration of queer and trans love and identity, it has its roots in protest and rebellion against the oppressive social norms that rendered LGBTQ+ people to the margins of society throughout history.
The story of Pride begins at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a bar popular among LGBTQ+ New Yorkers in the 1960s. Since it was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person in New York until 1966 and homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in the state until 1980, LGBTQ+ people flocked to bars like the Stonewall Inn, which did not have legal liquor licenses, because these spots were less likely to discriminate against customers.
On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn with the intent to “investigate the illegal sale of alcohol” and began to question those inside. According to witness records from the Library of Congress, officers and bar-goers began to fight and continued throughout the night and into the following morning.
This event was later dubbed the “Stonewall Riots” and on its one-year anniversary, the first Pride March was held to commemorate the event. The tradition has grown since and LGBTQ+ people and their allies continue to march and celebrate every June to provide visibility for the community and fight for gay liberation in society.
At Davis, Pride today means different things for many LGBTQ+ students. For some, it’s a chance to be represented and find community; for others, a chance to spread awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and fight against discrimination; for many, the month is a time to have fun with other queer and trans people.
Emma Bishoff, a third-year American studies major and the director of the ASUCD Pride Board, said that the modern-day “corporatization” of Pride by many corporations is a vast departure from the original radical intentions which brought freedom to LGBTQ+ people of all backgrounds. She explained that her own understanding of Pride has evolved away from that presentation of Pride in recent years.
“I think recently it’s become a more radical thing for me, as opposed to ‘rainbow capitalism’ and the Pride that corporations want to benefit from — which actually harms queer people,” Bishoff said. “Focusing on things that actually benefit queer and trans people, like their liberation and their joy, while addressing really serious issues within the community and the history of Pride, is important.”
Bishoff said that the Pride Festival at UC Davis hopes to honor the original intentions of the first Pride while taking a more intersectional approach to LGBTQ+ activism and visibility. Working with organizers of the Davis Art Market, the festival will showcase local queer and trans vendors and artists selling their work, allowing students to support LGBTQ+ people in their local community. Additionally, the event will give students a chance to enjoy queer performers, art and music.
Gracyna Mohabir, a fourth-year student double majoring in economics and environmental policy analysis and planning and the co-chair of the ASUCD Pride Board, said that one of the goals of the festival is to offer students of all backgrounds a space to explore queer identity and community — including those who are questioning their sexuality or have not come out.
“Large-scale private events are a very low-commitment way for people who are closeted or questioning to introduce themselves to that space in their own time,” Mohabir said. “Personally, when I came to campus, I did not step foot in the LGBTQIA Resource Center. No fault of theirs, but I was very nervous to openly enter a queer-specific space like that. A lot of my formative queer experiences came from more low-key events where I could just participate as an observer.”
Festival organizers also hope to connect queer and trans students with a multitude of student organizations and resources that aim to address issues that adversely impact them, especially those who may not come from accepting family or social circles.
One of these organizations is Aggie House, which will be helping LGBTQ+ students who are disproportionately impacted by housing insecurity access campus resources that can help them find safe spaces to authentically be themselves.
Since this is the first student-run Pride festival to be held at UC Davis, Ashley Chan, a second-year political science major and the co-chair of the ASUCD Pride Board, hopes that the event will be a success and lead to the creation of a permanent Pride Board that will solidify Pride into the UC Davis calendar for years to come.
“Ultimately, I hope […] it will be proof and evidence that student leaders can create something so large and wonderful,” Chan said. “Hopefully we can make it into an [ASUCD] unit, because we’re essentially doing the work of a unit, like the Whole Earth Festival or Picnic Day, and LGBT+ students deserve nothing less. So I think institutionally and long term, I really hope that this festival can kind of signal that Pride is here to stay and that we can make this bigger and better in future years.”
While the festival will represent an exciting start to Pride month for LGBTQ+ students, the end of the year can bring mixed emotions for many, especially those returning to homophobic or transphobic family and social circles for the summer, Bishoff said. While visibility and community are so important to sustain queer joy, some students don’t have the same level of freedom and acceptance that they experience in queer spaces at Davis upon returning home.
There have been several legislative attacks on queer and trans people from our highest levels of government in recent months, and many might be entering this June with mixed feelings. For those sharing these sentiments, Emma Bishoff said that prioritizing self-care and self-love are necessary to combat harm and can be one’s armor when returning to spaces that may not be accepting.
“Taking care of yourself as a trans person is radical,” Bishoff said. “It truly is, and just making sure that you have those safe spaces, whether it’s online, in person, with other people in the community or by yourself just in a quiet place is so important. Take care of yourself, and just know that you are worthy. […] No matter what somebody says to you, you’re still worthy.”
Written by: Malerie Hurley — firstname.lastname@example.org