Campus club gets ‘pride’ open

Tyler McNeil, Managing Editor

Madison Hernandez was not always comfortable identifying with rainbow colors. Last week, standing in front of a classroom of Pride Alliance members, she wore a rainbow draped around her neck without fear.

“I had a really hard time coming out to myself but, when I did accept that this is me and is who I am and this is who I will always be, it became easier to reciprocate that to other people,” said Hernandez.

After a dormant semester, the Pride Alliance looks to promote LGBTQ awareness, while some members still struggle to gain personal acceptance. “You’re always coming out to somebody new,” said Pride Alliance Officer Kyle Bloomer.

Spending his teens with what was described as a conservative experience at Tamarac High, Bloomer struggled to come out as gay, especially to his family. “It’s very scary when you don’t know how somebody is going to react because of the beliefs you know they have,” said Bloomer.

Growing up in a Christian family, Melissa Hitt, CIS student, still struggles to talk to her parents about being gay. “[My father] had me sit down and said ‘Melissa, think about the benefits of traditional marriage’,“ she said.

Approval for same sex marriage has increased from 37 percent in 2009 to 57 percent this year according to the Pew Research Center before it was legalized by a Supreme Court decision in June. “I flipped out of bed and almost put a hole through my ceiling,” said Benjamin Darkrune, CIS student, about the Supreme Court’s decision.

He said the Supreme Court’s decision was reassuring because at the time, he was dating a transgender man. Darkrune has been open about his sexuality on campus but still fears telling his parents due to their religious beliefs. “I know it would be a big fight,” he said.

“There are so many people in our communities that are smart, cooperative and there is no reason why there should be a separation between religion and LGBTQ awareness,” said Dani Zaccaira, individual studies student.

After coming out as a lesbian to her parents, who she described as “devout christians” in tenth grade, Zaccaira’s next challenge was in the girl’s locker room at Shenendehowa High School. “There was this one girl who said ‘I don’t want to be in the same locker room because you’re going to look at me’ and I said ‘don’t flatter yourself’,” she said.

Samantha Broggio, health sciences student, struggled to discover her sexuality.  “I later figured out that I don’t like just girls and guys. I just didn’t know what to call it,” said Broggio. She originally considered herself bisexual in middle school until she discovered pansexuality in high school.

Pansexuality is defined as “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.” According to Amy Briggs, 16-hour credit program student, being pansexual, her orientation is often mistaken with bisexuality. “Every person has a different interpretation of it and it’s more how you identify with it,” she said.

Since coming out as bisexual during high school in Voorheesville, Eileen Thompson, criminal justice student, fought against stereotypes while being involved in LGBTQ efforts.  “At my high school, if you were in the high school’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), they almost always assumed that you were not cisgendered,” she said. Cisgendered relates to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex.

Pride Alliance co-president Lex Alston hopes to advocate for students who are not cisgendered, like himself. “When you’re born, you’re either a girl or a guy but, for some people — that’s not the reality,” said Alston. As co-president, Alston hopes to push for more gender neutral bathrooms on campus.

In Fall 2014, the Pride Alliance introduced speakers Fiona Thompson and James Collins, who discussed raising a transgender child. According to club advisor Deanne Martocci, besides the October Voices lecture last year, the club was largely inactive. “Last semester was very quiet,” she said.

Pride Alliance officers, along with many of the club’s members who were not around campus last year when the group’s following and participation was at a low, hope to revitalize community involvement in the club with events such as Coming Out Day, which occurred two weeks ago. “It’s comforting to people because a lot of times people don’t have someone telling them ‘it’s okay’,” said Hitt.

Later next month, the club hopes to hold a vigil on campus for Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day honoring those who died as a result of transphobia. “Just for them to know that we’re here and have the support of the community can go a long way,” said Hernandez.

Despite not being a part of the LGBTQ community, Chris Crawford decided to join the Pride Alliance to remain supportive of childhood friend, Russell Clark. “I did this for the same reason I came to college in the first place, I don’t want to do it alone,” said Crawford.

“We want to make it more inclusive for everyone to make it seem like we’re just another group of people, we’re just like everybody else,” said Clark, digital media student.

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