As my first Pride month in D.C. draws to a close, I have grown a deeper understanding of what it is like to be queer and celebrate my community in a rainbow-crazed city instead of my parade-less hometown.
After 20 summers spent in a suburban Connecticut town where there are no Pride festivities, spending June in D.C. was the first time I joined thousands celebrating the LGBTQ community. Rainbow flags lined the streets and everything from Washington Nationals games to Smithsonian museums honored Pride month. The events were opportunities for me to celebrate my identity in a way I would not have been able to at home.
But many students were not in D.C. to join in the festivities and may have come from far less accepting or celebratory communities.
Feeling like I am not queer enough to celebrate has always made me dislike the month of June, and in my close-knit hometown in Connecticut I navigated high school as a straight person and did not tell anyone I was bisexual until college.While I feel accepted when I return home, the LGBTQ community is not necessarily celebrated. The town that raised me and countless other queer individuals has no parades, no special events and few acknowledgements of the LGBTQ community.
For queer students who come from families that are homophobic or towns that are silent about Pride like mine, moving to D.C. for college may feel like may feel like releasing a breath they’ve held all their lives. Urban communities like D.C. are famously enclaves for the queer community, and the schools within a relatively progressive city like D.C. should provide the same comfort. GW needs to do more to make queer people feel safe and celebrated when they’re on campus – not only during the summer months when most students are not in D.C.
The University could create its own Pride tradition and dedicate a month during the school year toward celebrating LGBTQ students, faculty and staff. Many queer students and allies would benefit from attending talks with prominent LGBTQ figures and activists and meeting other people in the queer community at educational and social events. GW hosts an annual Black Heritage Celebration and a Latinx Heritage Celebration but could also include time to celebrate Pride.
The University currently provides some resources for the queer community. The Multicultural Student Services Center tries to incorporate LBGTQ programming, and queer student organizations host events throughout the year. The MSSC also has an LGBTQIA Resource Center that provides housing and healthcare information for queer students. But University events specifically focusing on queer people are still less frequent than celebrations for racial and ethnic communities.
GW is where I first said out loud that I was bisexual. It’s the place where I found people I could relate to and talk about my queerness, which has been a great blessing in my life. Every time I pass by Beefsteak’s rainbow flag, I remember the time nearly three years ago that I came out to two of my new best friends over a bowl of vegetables. I am lucky to be able to spend my summers in the place I first felt comfortable talking about my sexual orientation, but not all students have that opportunity. The University needs to give students the chance to celebrate Pride during the school year.
I can see a better future for queer students at GW – one where they are celebrated by their university and their peers every day, not just during one month. But a dedicated month for LGBTQ people during the academic year is a visible, important place to start.
Matilda Kreider, a senior majoring in political communication, is a columnist.