|United Sexualities Hosts Pride Week, Gay Prom|
It started Monday with the Day of Silence & Night of Noise and finished on Saturday night with the Gay Prom. Not to mention different events every single nights during the week : Gender Blender Day, T-shirt Day, Movie Night and last but not least, the Coming Out Vigil. According to Wes Heath, student advisor of United Sexualities and junior double majoring in sociology and psychology, the most memorable, without a doubt, was the Coming Out Vigil on Thursday. The Chapel was completely full, and the people were stating their feelings and being completely honest in front of dozens of people that they did not know. They were telling their stories, and some of them were coming out that night. Some were reading speeches, reading poems, singing songs and playing the piano or just saying from the bottom of their hearts what they had to say. The audience was completely sensitive to what was being said. Some even cried because they were so touched.
“The pride week gives colleges’ great visibility and awareness, that is why many colleges do it,” Heath said. “The pride week exists at Manchester since several years.”
Zabrian Mills, co-facilitator of United Sexualities and junior in psychology added: “The pride week gave everybody a chance to express themselves and to let out all the oppression accumulated.”
United Sexualities is what Heath calls a gay-straight alliance. Indeed, lots of allies (someone straight who is working to help promote social equalities) are also part of it. Their 2012 goal is to be more visible on campus and make sure that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community is understood by everybody. “We don’t promote any political actions,” Heath said. “Instead, we work as a group to raise awareness. It is also safe place for the people at Manchester University to come and talk about trouble related or not to LGBT.
“As regards the LGBT, Manchester University as an institution is very accepting and open. I feel quite comfortable here. I can walk on campus holding hands with my boyfriend. But there is still have issues within some departments or group of people. We still hear ‘fag,’ for instance, and we can still hear some indirect insult that can bring up the hurt, especially within the sport field. But once again, lots of athletes are very supportive.”
Moreover, despite the mainly common awareness about the LGBT community, there are some people who still never heard about it before. Therefore, to raise focus to it is their main goal, in order to avoid future inequalities. “Plus, there is a difference between knowledge and awareness,” Heath added.
On Saturday, a gay prom was organized to close this pride week. The theme was Tim Burton’s rendition of Nightmare before Gay Prom. “Burton is very open-minded and different,” Mills said. “In a way he can be considered as an ally because he takes weird and uncommon things and makes them become popular, therefore accepted.”
United Sexualities felt the need to organize a gay prom because not everybody had the chance to enjoy their own high school prom. Indeed in many high schools, it’s forbidden to bring a same-sex partner. “I have been to my high school’s prom night, but I didn’t like it at all,” Heath said. “Mainly because I was not allowed to bring my boyfriend. And if you try to bring a same-sex partner, they will make sure not to sell you tickets.”
However, there are some high schools like Mills’, which now allows same-sex partner because of a lawsuit. Moreover, bringing a same-sex partner is not the only difference between the traditional prom and the gay one. “The gay prom is funnier, because it’s less formal so you’re more at ease, more relax and it is really more open-minded than the regular one,” Mills said.
United Sexualities has gained in visibility over the past few years, and they still want to achieve few more objectives. Their main goal is now to obtain an infrastructure to host their members and where the people can feel at ease and safe to talk without any judgment. A place quite similar to the Peace Studies Center or to the Multicultural Center, because they still don’t have one yet. Along with this center, they wish Manchester University has more LGBT resources, as books in the library for instance. At last but not least, their long term goal is to win the LGBT-Friendly National Accreditation, which could gave more visibility to Manchester University and thus, bring more diversity on campus.