Donning his handmade neckpiece constructed from the backside of corduroy and steel mesh, Matthew Fainor, ’20, performed a burlesque number for a crowd in Lamberton Hall on April 27.
“When you do a burlesque for people, you have control of your body — you demonstrate that,” he said. “You become physically vulnerable and therefore, emotionally vulnerable. This resonates with people.”
Fainor was a student performer in Spectrum’s 12th annual Drag Show, which raised money for the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown. Spectrum, a student-run LGBTQ+ group, is housed in the Pride Center.
Scott Burden, the associate director of the Pride Center, said that in the ’70s and ’80s members of the community sought refuge at the Chaplain’s office because no Pride Center existed.
After these services were brought to the forefront, the Rainbow Room was developed, providing a safe space to all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
After graduating from the University of Georgia, Chelsea Gilbert, the director of Lehigh’s Pride Center, joined the Equality Ride, a two-month social justice cross-country bus tour. Equality Ride visited several colleges where LGBTQ+ students were expelled, asked to leave or ostracized.
Gilbert, who discovered her own queer identity during this time, applied what she learned when she came to Lehigh and transformed the Rainbow Room into the Pride Center Office for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.
“This is a really good time to be doing work in the Pride Center,” Gilbert said. “We are getting a lot of support from the community. Change can happen when there is a bottom-up change. We also are lucky enough to be experiencing support from administrators, contributing some top-down change, as well.”
The Pride Center aims to create a world in which all genders and sexualities can thrive.
Burden said this inclusion applies to everyone, not just queer people.
“We commit to the belief that all oppression is interlinked and that we cannot work towards liberation for LGBTQ+ communities unless liberation for all marginalized communities is centered,” Burden said.
Burden said the center promotes the visibility of the queer community on campus and helps people understand and support queer students.
The Pride Center houses five campus groups: Spectrum, Athlete Allies, Greek Allies, SPEAK and Prism. With these programs, the Pride Center has trained more than a thousand students about LGBTQ+ competency through workshops and small conversations.
The Pride Center’s mission is to build a just, equitable world through community building in pursuit of change. Pride Week, which was hosted by Spectrum and started with Pride-A-Palooza on April 19, focused on promoting equity and change.
Spectrum hosted the Rainbow Showcase with Music Box on April 21. The open mic night raised money for the St. Luke’s LGBTQ+ space in the Banana Factory. The group also collaborated with Latino Student Alliance to host a film screening of “Chavela,” a film about lesbian ranchera singer Chavela Vargas, as part of their “Movie and Mozz” series on April 24.
On April 25, Spectrum sponsored an open SPEAK workshop called “LGBT+ 101,” which taught participants about LGBTQ+ identities, and the Pride Center also hosted its annual Take Pride ceremony to honor significant achievements and graduating students.
The week’s events culminated in the April 27 drag show. Spectrum President Nicole Reisert said the group starts to plan the show as early as September during its annual Great Pocono Escape retreat. She said the planning process picks up in January as the coordinators start to contact professionals and recruit student performers.
“This year’s drag show went even better than expected, largely thanks to our incredible performers and enthusiastic audience,” she said.
Through tips and donations during the event, Spectrum raised over $400 for the Bradbury-Sullivan Center.
Reisert has been a member of Spectrum since her first year at Lehigh.
“Through working with the Pride Center, I’ve learned how much can be accomplished when there is a sense of community among LGBTQ+ students,” she said. “We have found ways to not only celebrate our pride, but also support each other, educate those around us, and give back to organizations like the Bradbury-Sullivan Center that help those in need.”