AU community reflects on Pride month

AU students, staff and faculty discuss what this years Pride Month has meant to them and how they celebrate their queerness

AU community reflects on Pride month
Pride flags hang in Dupont Circle

Whether it’s their first Pride month or their 53rd, AU's LGBTQ+ students and faculty all carry a different Pride story. Each experience is unique and filled with feelings of joy, grief, frustration and peace. 

"For the longest time I didn't think queerness was something to celebrate," said Fabby Rincon, a rising sophomore at AU studying Journalism and Political Science. This year is Rincon's first Pride month being out to her friends and family, and she says AU played a large part in helping her discover and celebrate her sexuality. "I've never been at a more openly queer place than this school. Being in a place where I was not only surrounded by allies but queer people is a whole other world." 

Living on campus last year exposed Rincon to a community where LGBTQ+ individuals not only existed, but openly celebrated their identity and advocated for themselves. 

"The ability to be in a space that accepted me so openly made me more comfortable in my identity," Rincon said. 

For Rincon, Pride month is also about freeing herself from the temptations of "compulsive heteronormativity" and letting go of her stigma against celebrating queerness. This year she is celebrating sexuality for the first time by attending the NYC Pride Parade. 

Marnie Twigg, a professor of Literature and Women’s and Gender studies, attended their first D.C. Capital Pride Parade at 18 years old with their girlfriend. They described it as a beautiful accumulation of people and their “first real exposure to gay pop culture." They added, "There's a sense of togetherness that isn't something you often get on the D.C. club and bar scene, especially in the early 2000s." 

In D.C., there are few LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs, but the most iconic bar before 2016 was Phase One — the oldest lesbian bar in the United States. 

"Phase One was crazy during Pride; Jello wrestling, people dancing on the bars, and drag king shows," Twigg said. However, the queer community has lost many of those celebratory spaces. "There are a lot of places we lost during the pandemic, but the best part about AU is where we are, and you have to be willing to go digging to find your queer community," Twigg said. 

Now, as Twigg has taken a backseat to the D.C. club and party scene, celebrating Pride month to them means passing on their knowledge and experience, "As I got older, pride for me became something deeper and more internal. I want to pass on the stories of the little things, the crazy things, the fun things about D.C." 

Katie Greenstein, a rising junior from St. Louis, Missouri, described past Pride parades as a space of pure "queer joy". However, this year was different, due to the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

"Justice Clarence Thomas wrote explicitly that he was coming for contraception and same-sex relationships. We have to take that threat seriously. It's not just a threat. It's a promise,” Greenstein said, speaking of the decision. 

The threat of losing the right to marriage equality is a scary reality for Greenstein and the LGBTQ+ community, especially those living in states like Missouri. The weight of this possibility dampened their sense of celebration during the annual Pride parade.

"I wish that I could say that I was celebrating, but for the folks in our community, I think we tried, we tried to feel happy and excited, but we know better, and we know what's coming for us." 

While at home, Greenstein said they felt a sense of loss. They know that at AU and in D.C., they have the privilege of feeling safe within their queer identity, "I'm so unashamedly queer at AU, and it doesn't matter." However, they are continuing to grieve for every home that doesn't have protection against LGBTQ+ hate, and they hope AU and the D.C. community will be "a queer haven for the country."

Kyle Johnson, the co-leader of AU’s LGBTQ+ Faculty and Staff Affinity Group, is working to create the haven that Greenstein longs for. His professional and personal life follows in the footsteps of LGBTQ+ advocates that take Pride beyond the month of June. He is working to create liberating spaces for queer people year-round, such as his work leading the LGBTQ+ affinity group. 

Throughout the year, Johnson facilitates an affinity group sponsored virtual coffee chat; LGBTQ+ AU students, faculty and staff gather to create relationships and community. These conversations are used to strengthen queer individuals' ability to feel represented, seen, and heard.

"If people need someone to talk to, they can reach out and use the connections they made during these chats,” Johnson said. "A college is a place where students discover who they are, and a lot of times first-year students learn how to be their true authentic selves, and become comfortable enough to tell their friends and families back home, but unfortunately as we know that can backlash against them, especially financially." Johnson alongside the rest of the affinity staff have created a LGBTQ+ resource fund to help students experiencing financial difficulties. 

On June 17, the affinity group raised the progress pride flag, featuring colors that represent people of color, trans people, and those living with HIV/AIDs, on AU's quad, "It demonstrates our dedication to the movement and AU's LGBTQ+ community." Johnson happily added that this would become a yearly tradition. 

Pride month is more than accepting others and their identities; it is a celebration. Every student, staff, and faculty member has their own unique way of honoring their queerness. For many, they attend their local Pride parade to commemorate a community that was once forced to be hidden. Rincon’s parade experience was nothing short of liberating

​​“This is my first pride where I’m so confident in my identity, I’m confident that this is me, and it’s one of the most freeing experiences ever,” Rincon said

Correction: The original version of this article contained an incorrect version of Katie Greenstein's name. It has been updated with the correct version.

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