While people typically gather at festivals, concerts and parades in June, the LGBTQ+ Pride Center at Texas A&M is offering alternative ways for Aggies to celebrate Pride Month.
Students and organizations have prepared events for Pride Month this past year, but due to the pandemic, there have been cancellations and many last minute changes. However, the Pride Center and many other organizations at A&M are encouraging students to get involved and celebrate virtually.
Director of Gender and Sexual Diversity for Offices of Dean of Student Life Heather Wheeler, said the Pride Center is ending Pride Month with a virtual party.
“Aggie Pride, LGBTQ+ Network of Texas A&M, is hosting a virtual party this Friday. Paris Amour, who is the Queen of DRAGgieland, will be performing,” Wheeler said. “It will be hosted live on Facebook but Aggie Pride, the LGBTQ former student network, has given free EventBrite tickets. You can get tickets in advance or you can just wait until Friday night.”
The LGBTQ+ Pride Center has many different events throughout the year including Lavender Graduation, the Coming Out Monologues and Houston Pride. Another tool for students is the Pen Pals Program in which students are matched with others to comfortably communicate about LGBTQ+ topics that arise during the pandemic like relationships and moving back home. Although most of their events have been moved online, some have been rescheduled. Frances Jackson, the LGBTQ+ Pride Center coordinator highlighted some of those events.
“We were supposed to have the Big Gay Barbeque in April, that was going to be during LGBTQ Awarness week,” Jackson said. “At the moment, it has been rescheduled for October 17th. Fingers crossed we will be able to do that.”
Along with the Pride Month events and LGBTQ+ History Month in October, the Pride Center hosts monthly Facebook live events to help students not feel alone in any struggles they may be facing due to the pandemic and other situations.
“Pride Live is a Facebook live panel series where we have people come on from a variety of expert areas and talk about different subjects,” Jackson said. “We did a mental health panel, most recently we did one with former students talking about life after Aggieland. It streams on our Facebook live for about an hour, about twice a month.”
The Pride Center works in conjunction with other organizations at Texas A&M, along with the Pride Community Center in College Station to help everyone feel welcome and loved within the community. One organization trying to get students out and involved with Pride Month is Aggie Allies. Ph.D student and biology staff member Jennifer Bradford is a part of Aggie Allies and said the organization is encouraging students to get out in nature.
“We partnered with Flourish to do the Out-in-Nature, which has been super exciting, ” Bradford said. “It has been a lot of fun to go jog around in rainbow gear. We are also supporting all our other organizations on campus and the events going on with the Pride Center on campus.”
Organizations such as Aggie Allies, Transcend and LGBTQ Aggies are allies, and strive to help students that may be struggling. These organizations host workshops, discussions and different events to help students become educated and feel like there is someone to go to with issues they may be facing. Bradford said incoming LGBTQ+ students may find it harder to cope with these struggles, which is why there are events specifically for them as well.
“The Office of Admissions, Aggie Allies and the LGBTQ+ Pride Center are going to be doing an information session for incoming LGBTQ+ students ... to talk about career resources,” Bradford said.
Academic advisor and assistant lecturer Melyssas-Anne Stricklin is an Aggie ally that has been helping LGBTQ+ students, and offers up words of kindness for anyone who is struggling.
“There are people on campus that are open and ready and happy to help,” Stricklin said. “You are loved, no matter who you are, and I am happy to listen.”
For any resources, look at the A&M LGBTQ+ Pride Center Website. If you are a LGBTQ+ person who is in crisis, feeling suicidal or needs a safe place to talk, please contact the Trevor Project or call 1-866-488-7386.