Gonzaga’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, Helping Educate Regarding Orientation (HERO), is hosting Pride Week to foster awareness of and celebrate the LGBT community on campus.
The weeklong event, which started Monday and ends Friday, is meant to serve as homage to the pride celebrations that occur nationally each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots that started the gay rights movement.
“The month of June is Pride Month, but since most students aren’t on campus in June it was decided to have a week in April to showcase [LGBT] culture and what we’re about,” HERO Secretary Lauren Weiser said.
Pride Week includes a series of events that are meant to cover a wide range of educational topics concerning the LGBT community.
“We tried to hit a lot of different topics and expand what we bring to campus,” said Zach Oxford, president of HERO.
This year, Pride Week began with a huge main event. The first drag show performance on campus since 1993 was held at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Hemmingson Ballroom, after a collaborative approval process that involved HERO and the Office of Student Development.
“It was a well-thought-out event. They took their time and incorporated their faculty adviser in the process. They incorporated the educational component before and after. The proposal covered a lot of the issues that we would have had questions around,” said Judi Biggs Garbuio, vice president for student development.
Before the drag show, Professor Andrea Fallenstein spoke to the audience about “Drag 101,” which consisted of an overview of queer theory and a history of drag. Then a series of performers lip-synced and danced on stage while the audience cheered and handed out tips.
At the end, there was a 30-minute panel during which the drag queens, Father Timothy Clancy and Fallenstein conducted an informational dialogue concerning the closeness and struggles of the LGBT community, anecdotal stories about being a drag performer and educational discussions regarding the importance of serving as a leader within one’s community.
Pride Week continued Tuesday with a spoken word performance by renowned queer poet Andrea Gibson. The event was at 7 p.m. in the Hemmingson Ballroom, which was followed by a showing of the film “Carol” on Wednesday. Today there is an informational panel concerning HIV/AIDs at 8 p.m. in the Hogan classroom at the Jepson Center.
To end Pride Week, Friday is celebrated as “Day of Silence,” ending with a “Breaking the Silence” ceremony at 3 p.m., when the Spochella Music Festival is scheduled to start.
This ceremony is meant to honor those within the community who have been silenced by breaking the silence that they have symbolically or literally held that day, representing those who remain silenced every day. The ceremony also involves personal testimonies and the introduction of HERO’s new executive board, which will run the club next year.
“Every year we symbolically break the silence as a community,” Oxford said. “Traditionally, we have given people the opportunity to speak out about what it’s like to be queer on a Jesuit campus, how they want to be a better ally or share personal stories. Having such a big platform for such a personal event I think is very kind and awesome.”
The LGBT resource center was founded at Gonzaga in 2004 to foster support for the community and provide education related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. According to Clancy, the center was formed “by accident” when Sima Thorpe submitted a request for five AmeriCorps positions at GU.
Apparently, when the GU president signed the approval for the AmeriCorps positions, he did not read them and thus did not realize that one of the positions was for the president of an LGBT resource center on campus. This led to the creation of the LGBT resource center, now 12 years old. Recently the resource center was relocated from its previous location in the attic of the UMEC house to the Hemmingson Center.
“The resource center is a great way to show that we have faculty approval and support for the community. And I think it’s also great because it institutionalizes LGBT knowledge on campus,” Oxford said. “We have a full-time instructor. If someone is doing an event that might be controversial and might not properly represent the community there’s someone they can actually go to and learn if they are properly representing the community.”
Officially called the Lincoln LGBT Center, the new location is on the third floor of Hemmingson, and is coordinated by UMEC director Juanita Jasso. The Lincoln LGBT resource center was founded when a GU alum donated to fund the center.
“Joe Lincoln was an engineering student on campus and donated $100,000 to build the LGBT resource center in the Hemmingson center,” Weiser said. “I think he wanted to create a [safe] space. And he recognized that if we are not visible, then we are going to be ignored.”
The new location has allowed more visibility and presence for the LGBT resource center.
“It’s hard to say that that [the LGBT community has] a presence on campus when we’re housed in the attic of a house,” Oxford said. “Having a place in the Hemmingson Center is fantastic.”
“If someone’s questioning their identity on campus, it is extremely difficult to force [oneself] into a student group like HERO,” Oxford said. “Having a resource center, you are able to meet with a faculty member who is guaranteed to protect your identity and help you process it.”