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Celebrating SEMO’s LGBTQ+ Students, Faculty, Staff and Allies
The sweltering 92-degree heat did not stop students and staff from attending the annual LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) Ally Picnic, hosted by the LGBTQ+ Resource Center Aug. 25 at the Academic Terraces. The picnic was hosted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The event was an opportunity for LGBTQ+ students and allies to eat food, share stories and build community. The attendees consisted of mostly returning students, as well as faculty and staff, but there were a few new faces. Returning PRIDE club members checked in with first-time attendees to ensure they had a good experience.
Senior Rachel Davis discussed the importance of the event on a personal level.
“For me being from St. Louis, there’s not a lot of people who … are out in the community, so it was a big shock for me to come down to SEMO and meet all these people,” she said. “One of my friends I met freshman year was actually who got me involved, and I've been going [to PRIDE Club] ever since.”
The PRIDE Club, which stands for Peers Reinforcing Individual Diversity through Education, provides an opportunity for LGBTQ+ students and allies to gather and enjoy a welcoming environment to hang out and build community. Meetings are held Thursdays from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Center for Student Involvement, located on the second floor of the University Center.
In addition to the PRIDE Club, Southeast also has an LGBTQ+ Resource Center located in Room 204 of the Center for Student Involvement. According to the university’s website, the center aims to “provide a comfortable and confidential environment for LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff, or allies” and “works to increase LGBTQ+ awareness,” creating programs and events to “assist and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community on campus.”
Although Southeast has many resources and a welcoming LGBTQ+ community, picnic attendees still desire more progress in how the university supports LGBTQ+ students.
“I feel like the PRIDE Club is severely underfunded. … I used to go there for a while, and they don’t have much money, and … I know a lot of it might be spent out-of-pocket, as well,” junior Joey O’Driscoll said.
O’Driscoll also mentioned their concerns about gender-neutral restroom facilities and residence halls.
“[We need] more gender-neutral bathrooms,” they said. “There’s only a few on campus. … And maybe more access to [queer housing]. In Vandiver, we are stuck living on gendered floors that we personally don’t feel aligned with. It’d be nice to have one in Towers or somewhere cheaper, as well.”
“My old school had a trans club. I want that here,” senior Sage Chiles said.
Davis also had some thoughts on what Southeast could do to extend the reach of the PRIDE Club.
“Having more [events] to get it out there and letting people know who don’t know about PRIDE that we have it on campus. If my friend hadn’t brought me here, I would not have known that any of this existed,” Davis said.
For Southeast students and staff who are not a part of the PRIDE Club or the LGBTQ+ community there are still many ways to be a good ally.
“It sounds really cliché, but just to be a good listener, whether it’s your friend or somebody you don’t know … and if they need someone to rant to, to talk to, be there. Be that person,” Davis said. “But the other thing that I would say is be respectful to everybody ... because you don’t know what someone is going through and how they’re feeling about things.”
For more resources, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the LGBTQ+ resources website. This event was also sponsored by the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity; for more information and resources about this organization, click here.