PRIDE hosts first community LGBTQIA+ reception dinner

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo, Staff Writer

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People for the Rights, Inclusion, and Diversity of Expression hosted Luther’s annual LGBTQIA+ Reception in celebration of LGBT History Month on Oct. 10 in Shirley Baker Commons.

October is LGBT History Month which is a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, as well as the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. The month also coincides with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

The annual LGBTQIA+ Reception was organized by members of the PRIDE Executive Committee. It is a part of a series of events that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other sexualities, sexes, and genders. Speakers at the event included PRIDE President Filiberto Lopez-Garcia (‘19), Interim Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion Lisa Scott, and College Pastor Anne Edison-Albright along with a slideshow of PRIDE’s past events.

Students, faculty, staff, and the Gay Straight Alliance from the Decorah High School also attended the reception. Members of the Decorah community, such as Northeast Iowa Peace & Justice Center Board member Hannah Breckbill, were also in attendance. A total of 48 people were present at the reception. 

Lopez-Garcia explained that the goal of the reception was to help strengthen ties in the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people were able to communicate and socialize and be able to create those connections so that people in our community know where [to find] their resources and know who their allies are,” Lopez-Garcia said.

This is the first time that the reception had been open to community members outside of Luther.

“Last year, the reception was only for students on campus, but this year it branched out because members need to have that good standing and feel comfortable to reach out, and that was the primary goal,” Lopez-Garcia said.

PRIDE Treasurer Thomas Warden (‘21) thought the presence of Luther faculty and staff was encouraging.

“Having the presence of staff there was definitely a stepping stone to strengthening student and faculty relations [by] seeing them stand in support of our cause and celebrate community,” Warden said.

PRIDE Vice President Matthew Espey (‘19) also found faculty support of students with marginalized backgrounds and sexualities to be important.

“Faculty and staff engagement with organizations like PRIDE, Black Student Union, and International Student Association and Allies, who are built to support people who do not necessarily have support, will only make things better, both in the classroom and out,” Espey said.

The involvement of the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success helped the event run smoothly.

“This is the biggest attendance we’ve had for this event,” Espey said. “[CIES] was involved in planning this event and they told us that we can’t not do it. It is something the Decorah community, the Decorah High School, and Luther community expect us to do. One cannot hide oneself in silent support. We need to be outspoken and open to the community with who we are. Allow yourself to be your beautiful, weird, [and] funky self.”

PRIDE member Tamar Tedla (‘20) enjoyed the participation of College Ministries.

“I am a big fan of Pastor Anne,” Tedla said. “It was really refreshing to see her, as a pastor, be willing to preach inclusivity and allow people with all different sexualities to feel loved and accepted.”

PRIDE Communications Chair Lauren Westbrook (‘21) was pleased with the overall outcome of the reception and the involvement of the Decorah Community.

“[The reception] was received so well,” Westbrook said. “Seeing community members from Decorah being there just solidified this movement of solidarity. We really want our events to be made officially part of the official campus calendar, to have more people attend.”

President and Co-founder of the Gay Straight Alliance at Decorah High School Storme Barr has hopes for a continued connection between PRIDE and GSA.

“The environment was super welcoming,” Barr said. “I was really glad to see that they had pins we could place on our clothes by which we could identify ourselves and I hope I can use them for my GSA, too. I am also hopeful that the GSA and PRIDE will collaborate on more events like this so that when they invite speakers, we could attend, too.”

Another reception is planned for next semester as a farewell to graduating PRIDE members. PRIDE meetings are held weekly in the Mott/Borlaug room every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., and all students are encouraged to attend. 

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