Pride Month celebrates the history, impact, and visibility of the LGBTQ+ community

Pride Month is an annual commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. Pride Month honors LGBTQ+ history and heightens visibility for the LGBTQ+ community. The first Pride march took place in New York City on June 28, 1970, one year after the initial uprising that sparked the movement, and over the years the celebration has extended throughout the entire month.

“LGBTQIA+ contributions to history and society frequently go unappreciated or unrecognized,” Chief Diversity Officer Charles Gibson said. “The significance of Pride Month largely lies in the unparalleled visibility it provides for recognition of the historical and social contributions of LGBTQIA+ individuals.”

This year will mark the 52nd annual Pride celebration, when many in the U.S. dedicate time to learning more about the history of the LGBTQ+ community as well as acknowledge the many hardships they have overcome and joyous moments they have shared.

While many strides towards more equitable rights and conditions for the LGBTQ+ community have been made since that historical evening at the Stonewall Inn, “Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America,” a report authored by the Center for American Progress and Movement Advancement Project (MAP) offers some statistical insight into the continued inequality that LGBTQ+ individuals face.

According to the report, LGBTQ+ women do not experience the same level of financial stability that their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts are afforded. For instance, one in five LGBTQ+ women living alone lives in poverty. This figure becomes even more stark for women of color and transgender women, who are nearly four times more likely to live in poverty than the general population.

The report shows that this inequity is reflected in the workforce as well, with 16% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people reporting that they have lost a job due to their sexual orientation, and 35% reporting workplace harassment. Again, this figure was even more severe for people of color and transgender individuals. In surveys of Black LGBTQ+ people and Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ people, 42% and 75−82% respectively reported experiencing sexual orientation-based workplace discrimination.

Statistics such as these highlight the importance of recognizing and celebrating the LBGTQ+ community. Pride Month is a time of remembrance and awareness for these inequalities in our society, but it is also a time to celebrate these identities and the community which surrounds them.

Lees-McRae, seeks to create an environment where different backgrounds and experiences are celebrated and respected. The college acknowledges and celebrate the historical and societal contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in June and throughout the year. One way that students, faculty, and staff can take this mission into their own hands is by participating in Safe Zone training.

Safe Zone training is a curriculum that was put together by the Safe Zone Project. According to their website, “Safe Zone trainings are opportunities to learn about LGBTQ+ identities, gender, and sexuality, and examine prejudice, assumptions, and privilege.” The project’s website provides free resources to any educator who seeks to bring this opportunity to their institution.

The Safe Zone coordinator at Lees-McRae is Director of Counseling Services Marla Gentile. She holds four training sessions per semester, two for students and two for faculty and staff. Student trainings are held in person and require no sign-up. Faculty and staff trainings are hosted virtually and require sign-up to receive the virtual meeting link.

“I think it’s valuable to have these trainings for both students and staff and faculty on a lot of different levels,” Gentile said. “Staff and faculty may have grown up with some myths or prejudice, and when we’re working with people we have to kind of step into their world. As a therapist, that’s what I do, but I think it’s important that staff and faculty learn how to do that as well and have more knowledge and understanding of that community.”

While the training sessions focus heavily on education, they also serve as an important way to elevate and highlight members of the Lees-McRae community who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community, a purpose which is echoed from the message behind Pride Month itself.

“There are also people who come to the workshops who are part of the LGBTQ community, and I think that doing this workshop helps to give them a voice and recognition and value, and I think that’s really important,” Gentile said. “For the educational part we talk about pronouns, we talk about why people like to use certain pronouns, we talk about identity, we talk about even the participants’ identities. There are so many different types of identity, and maybe your identity offers privilege, or your identity is discriminated against.”

While the next Safe Zone training is not until September, Gentile and Gibson agree it is important to recognize the mission and purpose behind these trainings in Pride Month and all year long. Education and increased access to information is often the first step in making the world a better place for everyone in it.

“At Lees-McRae, we want everyone—faculty, staff, and students—to feel as though they belong. This can only be achieved if everyone can authentically engage with each other,” Gibson said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable being themselves. Safe Zone training enables us to facilitate creation of an environment where LGBTQIA+ members can be themselves.”

Learn more about Pride in Western North Carolina

By Maya JarrellJune 01, 2022
Campus Life