Pride Month, held each June as a celebration of self-expression and freedom within the LGBTQIA+ community (an original homage to the 1969 Stonewall uprising, which began the gay rights movement), has come again this year. Parades, parties and memorials will be held to celebrate in cities ranging from New York to L.A., and stores across the country will mass-produce a variety of rainbow-colored merchandise to show support. This month, Step Up wanted to talk to students from a variety of campuses, backgrounds and fields, and share what Pride means to them as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Nathan Sweet, 20, Freelance fashion photographer and business student
- Binghamton University
Pride, to me, is about self-acceptance. When I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I didn't feel comfortable with myself. Over the years as I came out and started to be true to myself, I became much happier with my life. Once I found friends within the LGBTQIA+ community, I truly felt at home as I was surrounded by those who understood me as a person and understood the hardships I experienced in my youth. These friends have inspired me to embrace myself no matter what, and I can't thank them enough for their impact in my life.
Rachel Coppe, 18, Law intern, student
- Drexel University
To me, pride is one of the most important aspects of who I am. It means being unapologetic and happy with my identity as a bi woman. Having pride is loving myself and my community. However, it also means accepting that I may lose support from important people in my life. In the end, pride can be bittersweet, but I will never stop having it.
Kaiyi Hall, 22, Photographer, student - Christopher Newport University
Some people see pride as a sin - however, pride to me is form of freedom. LGBT pride gives me a deep feeling of belonging and community. This warm, welcoming community has allowed me to be honest about who I love. After all, the only thing that matters in the world is your own happiness.
Ryan McLaughlin, 17, Head Swim Coach, student
- University of Pennsylvania
Pride to me is that feeling you get when you can confidently be the person that you are without any limitations or hesitations. It is being able to be yourself 110 percent, with no worries about what someone will say about you or whether or not you’re fitting into the norm. I have pride as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community because with every day that I wake up, I know that I am the person that I was meant to be, and that is something to celebrate rather than cover up. Pride is being able to smile, laugh, and be joyous to be myself with the world, and there is nobody or nothing that can take that away from me.
Max Maurice, 23, Electrical engineer
- Binghamton University
Pride means being able to travel through the avenues of life as I want to express myself. It's about disregarding people's reservations about my appearance, mannerisms, and vernacular, and being happy with the person I am. I never really had a "coming out" moment because I've never felt the need to restrict myself into categories of sexual orientation. I'm proud of the people I've made experiences with, of the people that have shaped me into the man I am today, and the people that continue to support me as I learn more about myself. That's what pride is to me.
Cameron Walsh, 20, Math/French student
- The University of Texas at Austin
I truly consider Pride to be one of the most important events in contemporary society. As a whole, Pride is seen as a time to recognize the impact that queer culture has had and the contributions that it continues to make in mainstream culture today. In addition, Pride is a time for promoting intersectional queer solidarity and communication among queer activists as we continue to push for rights and protections denied by the government and society as a whole. Pride is a time for the queer community; we recall the stories of our ancestors and how they were treated, we swap stories of our experiences today, and we plan for a better, more queer-friendly tomorrow.
Isabelle Grimes, 18, Defense contracting intern, student
- James Madison University
To me, Pride is about loving yourself and supporting others. The LGBTQIA+ community is so open and accepting, and I'm proud to be part of that.
To these students, Pride represents inclusivity, history, self-expression and confidence. This is only a small representation of the spectrum-identifying members across the nation, but it shows that students- whether their passions lie in arts, athletics, or academics- have, a solid understanding of Pride and its' meaning in their everyday lives.
We hope these profiles have shown readers student diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community, and encourage allies and members alike to celebrate Pride this month.
Aaron Royce, 20, is a student and journalist with writing experience for print and online publications. His journalism interest began when he started reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vogue before entering high school; he was a co-editor for the school’s newspaper and arts magazine. Post-graduation, he attended Christopher Newport University before transferring to NOVA’s Annandale campus, where he is currently a sophomore pursuing a Communications major. He recently completed a summer as Northern Virginia Magazine’s style intern, and now writes for online publications and interns with ArtJamz Creative Director, RMCI Senior Designer and fashion blogger Anchyi Wei.