I have been PRIDE’s advisor since 1997. In those days, we met in an undisclosed location, and if you wanted to attend a PRIDE (then called SAESO, Student Alliance Embracing Sexual Orientation) meeting, you had to call a campus extension to be vetted. We met in the nursing school because classrooms on the first floor had two doors; if protesters against PRIDE came in one door, we had an escape route. It was not uncommon for LGBTQ students to receive hate voicemails, even death threats, and hear “Faggot!” or “Dyke!” yelled at them on campus. SAESO/PRIDE members didn’t acknowledge each other on campus for fear of “guilt by association.”
As you know, the campus climate has radically changed. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are part of our non-discrimination and non-harassment policies. We’ve had an openly gay Associated Students president. In 2012 PRIDE is the largest student organization in the United Front Multicultural Center, larger than some fraternities and sororities. We have fought to sponsor dances and a drag show on campus. In spring 2013 a cluster of upper-division LGBTQ-themed courses will be offered for the first time in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Business Administration.
CAN YOU HELP US KEEP THE MOMENTUM?
I am proud to be associated with these efforts. But what has been most rewarding in being PRIDE advisor for fifteen years is watching PRIDE-sters—including many of you reading this email—claim their authentic selves and come into their own as proud leaders for social justice. I am inspired every day by the courage and integrity of our students, their willingness to speak their truth to power. Many of you developed your political, organizational, and negotiating skills in PRIDE. Nothing makes me happier than to see shy freshmen join PRIDE and graduate four years later as confident, mature leaders in their communities.
For this work to continue, we need your help. Individuals and groups outside USD continue to pressure the university to crack down on PRIDE. We hope to have a second drag show in spring 2013, but don’t know if the university will allow it. We hope that LGBTQ-themed courses will become standard in many departments and schools, but don’t know if that is possible. My dream is to create an LGBTQ and Ally Resource Center that engages the USD community in creating a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and empowers them to become leaders for social justice and transformation. There are many obstacles to this dream becoming reality.
Thank you for your past support, and I hope you will continue to support PRIDE and other efforts to make USD a more welcoming and inclusive place.
Dr. Evelyn Kirkley
Proud PRIDE Advisor