Today, more than half a century since the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, the LQBTQIA+ community continues to face widescale discrimination, most recently in the form of state-level anti-LGBT policies — from Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill to transphobic proposals centered on sports and healthcare.
Set against this national climate, the parades, workshops, celebrations, and memorials that make up Pride Month 2022 provide an opportunity not only to recognize the contributions of LTBTQIA+ people, but to continue a longtime push for inclusivity.
“Pride Month is ultimately a time to reflect on all the progress we’ve made since Stonewall as a community but also how far we still have to go,” said Caleb Eubanks (He/Him/His), marketing and communication manager at the University of Central Missouri’s Elliott Student Union.
“In Missouri, we have no protections for people based on gender identity and sexual orientation, which opens the door for so much discrimination — whether that means preventing people from participating in sports with a team they identify with to barring them from getting the gender-affirming healthcare they need to thrive mentally, emotionally and physically,” he continued. “There are days it feels like we are making progress and days it feels as if we’re going back in time.”
Eubanks said student union pride celebrations promote visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, both on campus and in the surrounding area.
“These events can provide opportunities for students to learn about the different identities and cultures within our community,” he said. “I always find it fun to see who comes out to the celebrations as an ally to support us, too. Knowing there are people in your corner helps — especially in conservative areas.”
The University of Central Missouri’s Elliott Student Union, Eubanks’ workplace, is home to the Lavender Lounge, an inclusive space maintained by the school’s Center for Multiculturalism & Inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ student organization, Prism.
“We’re always willing to extend a helping hand to the individuals and their groups that hold events in the union,” Eubanks said. “For example, we worked with our Women & Gender Studies program on campus to sponsor a Women’s Summit that tackled topics on gender and coming out.”
The Elliott Student Union also focuses on the LGBTQIA+ community during April, which is Campus Pride Month. Eubanks, who is in charge of the union’s social media accounts, recommends using social media activity to inspire Pride-related events.
“From a drag show hosted by Silky Nutmeg Ganache at West Chester University and a Pride Walk celebration at Arkansas Tech University to Safe Zone training offered by various institutions, it’s encouraging to see the creativity and engagement opportunities others have to offer to celebrate and educate about our community,” he said.
Leading ACUI’s LGBTQIA+ Community of Practice
Eubanks, who joined ACUI right before the pandemic, co-leads the LGBTQIA+ community of practice along with Shane Farmer, associate director of operations at Clemson University. In a recent post titled “What’s Your Pride?” Eubanks reflected on his experiences growing up and how they impact his celebrations.
“My Pride is to be the loving and accepting Christian I didn’t have growing up and in my time of need,” Eubanks posted. “My Pride is being able to carry on what I learned as a student leader in school and apply it to my work today. My Pride is being a voice for those who aren’t yet ready to speak or be seen. My Pride is being that gay sports fan, as sports continued to bring me joy even in my darkest times. My Pride is in the happiness I’ve built by being my true, authentic self.”
Eubanks said ACUI’s LGBTQIA+ Community of Practice provides a year-round opportunity for the community and its allies to support and learn from one another.
“We’re a community of people in ACUI who identify as LGBTQIA+ or even as allies who come together to have fun conversations and connect,” he said. “I’d love to see more involvement: Join and start (or reply to) a thread in our ACUI forum, show up to our monthly meetups on the second Thursday of each month, volunteer to facilitate a Safe Zone training at your regional conference (we have the materials for you), or lead a roundtable on a topic the community is facing. We’re all about partnering, so shoot us ideas and let’s make something happen!”
Allies can also play a role in dismantling systems of oppression in our society and on our campuses.
“We as LGBTQIA+ people can’t do it alone, Eubanks said. “We need others on the front lines with us educating themselves and others. You can be an ally to the community, but without action, are you really an ally? Just think about it.”