The Pride flag is raised at Western’s LGBTQ+ celebration June 5, 2019. // Photo by Mike Oh
Western held its first LGBTQ+ Pride Celebration on June 5 outside the Wade King Student Recreation Center. The gathering kicked off LGBTQ+ Pride Month and honored graduating students in the LGBTQ+ community.
The event was coordinated by Western’s LBGTQ+ director L.K Langley, their advisory committee, the Associated Students Queer Resource Center, the AS Ethnic Student Center and a number of individual students and staff.
The ceremony opened with words from Langley, Western’s President Sabah Randhawa and a spoken word poem from an LGBTQ+ creative writing major. Purple Pride t-shirts were also handed out to the first 200 attendees.
LGBTQ+ students involved with coordinating the event raised a rainbow flag alongside Western’s flag outside the Wade King Student Recreation Center. The rainbow flag remained up for students and families to recognize and feel pride in Western’s LGBTQ+ community during spring quarter commencement, Langley said.
LGBTQ+ graduates were recognized on stage during the celebration and bestowed with rainbow graduation cords by staff members.
“This is an opportunity to reaffirm our individual and institutional commitments to making Western an increasingly inclusive community,” Randhawa said during the ceremony.
Langley said events like Pride are important because they allow the community to imagine that inclusivity is possible, even at this time in our country.
“I want to acknowledge that people in our community, both here at Western and around the country and the world, are holding pain, are holding fear of rejection, are holding uncertainty and realities of violence,” Langley said.
They described the event as a place for celebration, finding joy in being queer and establishing Western’s pride in its LGBTQ+ community.
Langley said despite it being dead week, the turnout exceeded their expectations. They discussed the joy of being present during a time when LGBTQ+ students and faculty have the opportunity to celebrate their identities. Langley said the joy and care at the ceremony was palpable.
“I think it’s good that they’re having an event like this,” third-year student Hailey Walker said. “I also think that it should be appreciated and celebrated all the time, not just on a day or a month.”
Langley mentioned that they shared the sentiment that Pride should be celebrated year-round. They said supporters should stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community even when there is no celebration and LGBTQ+ individuals might not be visible. Langley said they hope Pride celebrations become an annual tradition at Western, based on feedback from attendees that the celebration was affirming, meaningful and generally well-received by LGBTQ+ individuals.
“For all of us, the necessary and joyful work of doing justice should be year-round and life-long,” Langley said.
Emily Forrette, a second-year student on Langley’s LGBTQ+ advisory committee, helped plan and organize the event. She said the event was a good representation of the LGBTQ+ community coming together and celebrating publicly.
“Pride is a very large celebration, it’s a big part of the culture,” Forrette said. “And we don’t normally have a celebration like this, so this is our first attempt toward rectifying that.”