In honor of the nationally-celebrated LGBT History Month, Lehigh’s Pride Center has planned a line-up of activities that feature high-profile guests and interactive events aimed to promote education, support and inclusivity on campus.
To celebrate this year, Lehigh’s Pride Center has collaborated with various student groups and offices on campus to host high-profile guest speakers, musicians, authors and a comedian.
“This is the first time we’re having a big LGBT History Month at Lehigh,” said Elizabeth Pines, ’16, a Pride Center student worker. “In the past it’s been very disjointed, but now [with the re-brand of the Pride Center], LGBT month will have much more of a presence on campus.”
Trish Boyles, the new director of the Pride Center, said that the key to this year’s success is collaboration.
“We have tons of departments, programs and groups working with us to make these events possible,” Boyles said.
There are currently 18 other academic programs and departments working with the Pride Center, including Greek Allies, Athlete Allies, Africana Studies, Women’s Studies and the Department of History, among others.
To kickoff the month’s festivities, the Pride Center will host a TV series marathon of “Orange is the New Black” on Oct. 1 and 2 in the University Center. The first half of the episodes will be shown the first day, and the other half on the second day.
According to Pines, since the cast of the show is so diverse, showing “Orange is the New Black” is the perfect way to get students warmed up and thinking about the issues of intersecting identities, which is the theme of this year’s LGBT History Month. Following the marathon, there will be a lunch discussion about the issues of race, class and sexual orientation as they relate to life in prison.
One of the major events that takes place during LGBT History Month is National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Spectrum, a student-led organization in the Pride Center, is responsible for this year’s celebration of National Coming Out Day on campus.
There will be a “Pride Walk” on Oct. 10, which starts at the University Center front lawn and goes around the main pathways of campus.
According to Madison McGahan, ’15, a “Pride Walk” organizer, organizations and individuals can join in on the walk and sign a pride flag which signifies that they pledge to be more inclusive and accepting of the LGBTQIA community. The pride flag will be displayed on campus and be a symbol of Lehigh’s support.
“This is a great way to give organizations the chance to say that they are supportive of the community,” she said. “It’s one step towards making Lehigh a more diverse and inclusive campus.”
Throughout the month of October, there will be several other speakers and events coming to campus.
Comedian Erin Foley will be coming to Lehigh in honor of LGBT History Month on Oct. 14. Pines said that Foley is a gay stand-up comedian who brings her identity to her comedy in a way that’s light and humorous.
“She uses her celebrity status to show the normalization of the LGBT community, and that LGBT people can be successful too,” Pines said.
In addition, the highlight event of this year’s LGBT month is two trans-activists coming to campus on Oct. 23. Both Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness, and Ryan Sallans, author of Second Son, will come to Lehigh and hold discussions on intersecting identities. Both of these speakers have written memoirs about their journeys growing up.
“We’ve never had such high-profile people come to speak about trans-issues before,” Pines said. “There’s always a lot of focus on the ‘LGB’ parts of LGBT, but oftentimes the ‘T’ gets left out.”
Overall, the goal of this year’s LGBT History Month is to create an environment where students can feel safe to be who they are.
“I hope that [LGBT History Month] will help to make Lehigh a safer, more welcoming and inclusive environment in general,” Boyles said.
Boyles also encouraged everyone on campus to attend the events during LGBT History Month.
“There are opportunities for everyone to learn something,” she said. “Our events are for everyone, not just those who identify with the LGBTQ community.”
Pines agreed and said that it is important for all students to attend these events, even if they don’t know much about it or it is outside their comfort zone.
“We can’t develop as people if we don’t understand differences and know how to work with others,” she said. “It’s so important for our generation to realize the struggles that the LGBT community has had, but also to celebrate and keep moving forward.”