Claremont McKenna College’s inaugural Pride Party debuted in beads, glow sticks, a giant beach ball and discourse. On Oct. 11, CMC’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) held the event, one of the first major social events celebrating LGBTQ+ pride.
“At its peak, we estimated that there were about 150 students in attendance,” Sofi Cullen CMC ’16, president of SAGA, said. “Given that it was a) the weekend before fall break/midterms, b) hosted in the student event space, which for other comparable events hasn’t historically had great turnouts, and c) the first party thrown of its kind on CMC’s campus, I think 150 is a great number.”
In the week prior to the event, a table was set up outside Collins Dining Hall where members of SAGA spoke with students about queer inequality and the resources available for students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“For an event thrown in celebration of LGBTQ+ pride, the quality of the event was more important to me than the number of students in attendance,” Cullen said. “CMC has a reputation for being in some, but not all cases, a hostile, unwelcoming and undesirable social environment for LGBTQ+ identified students. The overarching goal of this event was to take a step in the opposite direction and to begin shifting the environment here towards an atmosphere of inclusivity.”
The event was a step toward creating an atmosphere of open dialogue and inclusivity for all students.
“Part of SAGA’s mission is to include and welcome allies,” Cullen said. “We believe that if we’re going to change campus culture, we’re going to need the support of community members outside of the LGBTQ+ community. We hosted this event in a similar spirit.”
However, as Cullen noted, having an open party can sometimes leave crevices for ignorance and homophobia to trickle in. Though these were some of the risks taken, the end result of the evening outweighed all. This event was monumental, for it was the first time CMC hosted a consortium-wide party in honor of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We didn’t expect perfection, and we didn’t get perfection,” Cullen said. “But we did take a step in the right direction.”
It is apparent that the work is not over, not only individually as colleges, but as a consortium community as well.
“We need to make it clear to faculty, administrators and staff that supporting marginalized students doesn’t simply mean informing them of consortium-wide resources,” Cullen said. “It means actively demonstrating care and concern for their experiences, incorporating diverse perspectives into academic curricula, creating forums for their voices to be heard, and using inclusive language inside and outside of the classroom.”
Substantial, genuine change is an ongoing, ever-evolving process that requires the desire, effort and support of individuals and groups at all levels of participation. This event was hosted as a means of supporting such change and celebrating the efforts made so far. Changing campus climates will not happen overnight, but the night of Pride Party was definitely an unforgettable milestone in advancing that fledgling change.