During the month of April, UNCG is holding its very own pride month on campus. The Office of Intercultural Engagement (OIE) has released a calendar of events, which includes film screenings, workshops, arts and crafts events, dialogues and discussions that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Former President Obama made June the national LGBTQ+ pride month during his presidency. Since this annual event is celebrated during the summer, when most universities are in their downsized summer sessions, many campuses across the country have adopted April as the nationwide month of on-campus festivities. This year marks UNCG’s second-annual involvement with this national celebration.
On April 5, the OIE hosted a Student Art Exhibition Reception, which showcased pieces UNCG art students created on the topics of gender, sexuality or LGBTQ+ pride. From 6 to 8 p.m., students were invited to drop in and take a moment to appreciate the artwork that members of UNCG’s queer communities created for this event. Pieces included brightly-colored illustrations, portraits of friends and a solemn hanging piece that listed names of transgender people of color who were murdered within the last nine years.
Kate Rawson is the co-coordinator of this event and currently serves as the Graduate Assistant for LGBTQ Advocacy and Outreach in the Office of Intercultural Engagement.
“We want [pride month] to be a collaborate [sic] experience,” Rawson said. “We started the process of creating this month’s calendar by reaching out to different departments on campus – both academic and student affairs groups. We try to look at pride and intersectional issues surrounding it through as many different lenses as we can.”
Rawson approached Babette Shaw, who teaches fine art photography in UNCG’s School of Art, to discuss organizing a program for pride month. Together, the two on-campus organizations collected submissions from interested students on campus and made selections for which pieces would be featured in this special reception.
Among those artists featured is Laura Lazarini, who had three pieces in the exhibition. Her piece titled “OUT” features the colors of pride flags representing different gender and sexual identities, like the pink, blue and white flag that honors transgender pride. A blue figure sits in the center, representing the isolation that can come with feeling scared to come out of the closet.
Another of Lazarini’s pieces is called “Therapy,” and depicts the pained expression of a man being subjected to electric shock therapy. Rainbow colors drain from his face, symbolizing a theft of identity.
“A lot of people believe that [being a part of the LGBTQ community] is a sickness, and a common solution to homosexuality was electric shock therapy,” Lazarini said. “You can see the rainbow draining away from him, taking his pride in his homosexuality out. But it’s still present in the image.”
The OIE kicked off the month with a Queer Clothing Drive in the EUC, where students and community members were welcome to drop off any used clothing. These items were donated to those struggling to express their most authentic selves, which can be tricky and often unsafe for those of us who don’t fall into the gender binary.
UNCG’s LGBTQ+ Pride month is just beginning, and there’s still a lot of time to get involved. Some interesting events coming up include a “Second Chance Prom” on April 14 at 7 p.m., and a discussion on Sexism in Hip Hop as part of the CommUNITY Dialogue Series on April 20 at 1:30 p.m. On April 11 at 6 p.m., the African American Diaspora Studies and Women and Gender Studies departments will host a film screening of “Brother Outsider,” a documentary on the life of activist Bayard Rustin who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
You can access the whole calendar of events on the Office of Intercultural Engagement’s website – http://www.intercultural.uncg.edu.