The University of Northern Iowa’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organization, UNI Proud, has just concluded their largest Pride Week ever. The organization hosted more events than ever before, which received record attendance, and raised more than $500 for charity, the most the organization has ever raised during a single Pride Week. The theme of this year’s week was “Pride and Progress,” with events focusing on the political and personal strides made by the LGBT community.
Events included the second annual Queer Monologues, a production inspired by the Vagina Monologues which features LGBT students sharing personal stories; keynote speaker Andrea Gibson, award-winning spoken-word poet; Former Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Marsha Ternus; and the annual Drag Show, which raised a record $536 for the Community AIDS Assistance Project.
“In the past, we’ve been a growing organization, so we really want to show people how much we’ve grown and how much change we’ve made on this campus,” said David Pope, junior political communication major and president of UNI Proud.
Pride Week has been hosted during the first week of April on the UNI campus for more than ten years. The goal of the event is to raise awareness of LGBT issues, while providing LGBT students and supporters the opportunity to participate in safe and fun events all week. Going along with this year’s theme of progress, there was added emphasis on highlighting UNI Proud’s ongoing work on campus at UNI.
Some students have witnessed this growth first-hand. Sophomore electronic media major and director of media relations for UNI Proud, Linh Ta, recalled hearing about Pride Week for the first time.
“I remember when I was a freshman and I just heard about Pride Week, but I didn’t know exactly what it was,” she said. “Now to really take a huge part in it this year, it’s just the absolutely most amazing feeling.”
Other students, like junior women’s and gender studies major Nina, were participating in the event for the first time, but still experienced growth on a personal level. Nina participated in this year’s Queer Monologues, an experience which proved to be worthwhile.
“It was exciting, liberating and intense,” she said of the experience.
David understands the excitement of participating in Queer Monologues. He has performed in the production both years. “I’ve seen the healing and the cathartic type of growth that’s happened with the people writing their monologues,” he said.
While the individual events can be exciting and transformational on their own, perhaps the most important transformation of all is the one happening on a larger scale. UNI Proud hosts a number of events throughout the year that aim to create a safe and accepting community for all people at UNI. It is through these efforts that UNI Proud has grown as an organization and been able to host a Pride Week on a scale such as this.
Linh put it best, “We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere,” she said.