This year, virtual events and a week-long art exhibit provide a more accessible and socially distanced Pride Week to celebrate LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“When we talk about relationships, when we talk about dominant identities, LGBTQ+ people have not historically been a part of that narrative,” said Kalyani Kannan, coordinator for UNI’s Office of Gender and Sexuality Services (GSS). “This is an opportunity to say to our LGBTQ+ students — we are here and we see you.”
A number of events will be held from Monday, April 5, through Friday, April 9, including a week-long art exhibit in Rod Library, film screening, Q&A with renowned activist Susan Stryker, and a virtual meet-up with LGBTQ faculty and staff. A full list of events and details can be found on https://lgbt.uni.edu/pride-week.
The virtual events are a way to not only keep campus connected amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on campus, but also help to make events more accessible for students who might have trouble attending in-person events.
"The GSS office made this so much easier for us as student leaders, this year especially," said Tris Feil, senior Digital Media Production major and member of UNI Proud’s executive team. "Obviously, COVID-related restrictions impacted the planning process. We were still able to make a lot of interesting events available this year, and even have some options for further reach thanks to online [events], which I personally hope stick around and are expanded on to make a more accessible roster of events."
Pride Week is only one block of programming that aims to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion on campus. UNI Proud also hosts a week of events for Homecoming in the fall, and GSS will resume the annual Lavender Graduation event with a modified and socially-distanced program on April 27.
Lavender Graduation is an annual mini-commencement ceremony focused on honoring graduating LGBTQ+ students and allies for their contributions to the campus community. The University of Michigan hosted the first Lavender Graduation in 1995, and sparked a nationwide trend. UNI has hosted Lavender Graduation annually since 2014, though 2020 ceremonies were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kannan is excited to see the ceremony return. (Attendance will be limited for COVID compliance, but organizers are working on a streaming option.)
“At Lavender Graduation, we really put the focus on … LGBTQ students and celebrating their accomplishments as graduates,” said Kannan. “I think particularly meaningful is, for students for whom the name that will be on their official UNI diploma is different than the name that they live in from day to day, they have the opportunity to have that be the name that’s recognized. Lavender Graduation is an important part of their closure on their time at UNI.”