This year, the annual celebration of Pride Month in June comes on the heels of both a pandemic and wide-ranging protests demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality. Two West Virginia University experts in LGBTQ+ rights say this year presents a “window of opportunity” for both higher education policies and Pride events.
Ellen Rodrigues, assistant director of the WVU LGBTQ+ Center, notes that the events of 2020 give universities the opportunity to transform. On-campus student organizations should collaborate on anti-racist and gender-inclusive issues. In addition, academic and institutional reforms can help LGBTQ+ students succeed during and after college.
Megan Gandy, assistant professor of social work in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, researches the present-day LGBTQ+ movement among rural youth. She urges Pride Month celebrations to continue, but also join forces with Black Lives Matter protests, which she sees as a continuation of the LGBTQ+ movement’s history and values.
“More than a time of reflection, 2020 is a call for collaborative action to address inequalities. LGBTQ+ advocates must recognize our debt to the civil rights movement and to leaders like Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender Black woman instrumental in the Stonewall uprising. This moment is also a window of opportunity for higher education. With the growing number of LGBTQ+ centers and diversity roles at universities, we in higher education can strengthen collaborations to further implement anti-racist and gender-inclusive practices and pedagogies. We need to ease students’ sense of invisibility and loneliness, whether because LGBTQ+ students are sheltering in unsupportive places during the pandemic or because of the continuing challenges for students of color at primarily white institutions. We can revise our syllabi and research to amplify the voices of Black scholars; we can make sure we know what to do or say when we witness injustice and discrimination; we can better support and mentor students so they can find opportunities for funding and professional development. Faculty hiring and diversity supplier programs should also be priorities. This is how LGBTQ+ Pride Month can help us remember 2020 not as a year of instability, but a year where we reshaped our actions towards what really matters.” – Ellen Rodrigues, Assistant Director of the WVU LGBTQ+ Center
“We should not just skip over Pride Month this year. Instead, we should return to its revolutionary roots: that people deserve to live without police brutality and murder. Although that idea persists, many Pride celebrations today focus more on the white, middle-class, gay- and lesbian-centric ideas of visibility. However, being visible is often not even one of the top ten most important things on the minds of LGBTQ+ people today. Instead, the movement focuses on figuring out how to avoid homelessness, keep our jobs and avoid police brutality when the laws and legal system are not on our side. The revolutionary ideals of Pride are applicable now more than ever before, so Pride celebrations should not just cancel activities due to the pandemic. They should instead join forces with Black Lives Matter protests. Imagine if the streets were filled with the same white, middle-class LGBTQ+ folks and allies but instead of celebrating an outdated six-color rainbow flag, they were demanding an end to police brutality.” – Megan Gandy, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
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