The month of June marks a time for reflection and celebration of what the LGBTQ+ community has accomplished. Also known as pride month, it is a time to celebrate individuals and their identities.
Micah McCarey, director of the LGBT Center, said the month is a chance to highlight the importance of visibility. OU's LGBT Center and Diversity and Inclusion Center are making an effort to increase the support shown throughout the month.
“It (OU’s Diversity and Inclusion Center) has launched a unifying campaign message for Ohio University, Athens community about visibility,” McCarey said. “There's so many folks who don't feel like they can live their truth openly, or see people who they relate to in positions of leadership – so just taking time to celebrate visibility is really important to us too.”
The pride celebration at OU will be extended through the month of October, or LGBT history month. There will be a plethora of virtual events and hopefully in-person events later in the year.
OU’s LGBT Center has been hosting events since the beginning of June and are continuing until the end of the month. Those interested can view the events and RSVP online.
Jan Huebenthal, departing assistant director of the LGBT Center, said he is proud of how far the LGBT Center has come in the past two years and its contribution to OU’s equity and diversity commitment.
“The future of LGBTQ+ life at OU and in Athens is bright, and I am immensely proud of our wonderful students who are making that future a reality," Huebenthal said in an email.
Not only are pride month celebrations happening at OU, but the Southeast Ohio Rainbow Alliance is hosting events throughout the month of June as well. Everyone is invited to the in-person events.
McCarey said the COVID-19 pandemic made him aware how globally connected the world is, and this played a huge role in determining how to organize the pride month events. Many of OU’s activities this month are focused on the global view of LGBTQ+ equality and human rights being challenged all around the world.
Pride month is a time for people to celebrate their unique and individual experience and for others to learn everyone has their own, personalized journey.
For Ser Spinelli, a fifth-year student studying fine arts, pride month is an opportunity for allies to learn about different experiences and obtain a new view on what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a chance for allies to educate themselves and learn from the people around them about what to say, how to be inclusive and how to be understanding.
“I think being involved in this kind of stuff is already a great step, like going to these panels and hearing about other people's experiences and what they have been up to, any initiatives that they're working on,” Spinelli said. “It's important to get a diverse view of people, identities and what issues that we face.”
McCarey said when allies take the time to educate themselves about the topics and issues the LGBTQ+ community face, it leads to an increased amount of empathy. Educating can be done in multiple ways, such as informing friends and family of the issues at hand or correcting someone who uses a derogatory word about the LGBTQ+ community.
Spinelli said talking to a member of the LGBTQ+ community would also be a way for one to better educate themselves. They said it is important to talk to people who have gone through these challenging and personal experiences, but it’s also important to understand not everyone will always want to have those conversations.
In Athens, the LGBT Center is trying to make a local difference by starting an outreach to Athens residents who have pride flags, Black Lives Matter flags or any form of support for intersectionality and inclusion outside their house. McCarey said they plan to recognize the people of Athens and let them know their support is appreciated and emphasize their contribution to visibility.
“We want them to participate in the progress pledge campaign that invites them to make a pledge of active and intersectional allyship,” McCarey said. “Specifically, ‘What do you pledge to do to be a strong ally, an active ally?’ For some people it's about educating themselves, but we are really recognizing the need to push people toward action – learning about exclusive transgender legislation that is a threat to anything from participation in sports to being able to get good health care. There's a lot to the visibility of issues, as well as people.”
McCarey hopes OU students, faculty and Athens residents are able to find a welcoming environment with the LGBT Center and the multiple resources they have to offer.
“We want everyone to know that they're welcome in our physical LGBT Center space in Baker Center on the third floor,” McCarey said. “It's a place where you can just grab snacks and coffee between classes, play board games or just have good conversations. We want folks to know that we're here for everyone, especially our allies.”
There are no labels, restrictions or requirements for utilizing the LGBT Center – McCarey and Spinelli said everyone is human first.
Although pride month is only one month, it’s a time of growth and celebration that continues throughout the whole year and beyond.
“I just hope people can have a chance to relax, to celebrate, to see how far we have come and to be able to look forward to the future because it's been such a negatively skewed time,” Spinelli said. “We want to take a month to be able to just relax and enjoy existing, enjoy being and not have to worry about the next flight in our lives.”