“We are here and we are queer!” Alex Dumas, president of Sierra Nevada
College’s Pride Club, cried valiantly at its first meeting of the fall semester.
This, Dumas says, is the essence of pride club: existing exactly as she is and being proud of it. The meeting kicked off with pizza, laughter, and heartfelt stories about experiences of being a part of the LGBT+ community. Pride Club meets Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the second floor common room of Prim-Schultz Hall on SNC’s campus. The meetings are primarily educational but are also open to many types of discussion. Some of the topics discussed during the meeting ranged from polyamorous or open relationships and the spectrum of sexuality, to coping with an unaccepting family. Alex Dumas says that she wants the club to be a safe place for people all over the Tahoe community, whether gay, straight, male, female or anywhere in-between, to find common ground and give and receive support, as well as become educated on the topic.
Dumas believes education regarding the LGBT+ community is important, such as using the correct pronouns or simply not using offensive phrases such as, “that’s so gay.”
“That’s a word that’s been associated with this community for so long, and you put that negative connotation on it and it teaches people that the thing that they are has this negative connotation which is not true,” Dumas said. “It’s a term that’s associated with loving other people, and we put this connotation on it as if it’s stupid or dumb and people start to believe that about themselves.”
“You love who you love, you are who you are, and there is nothing negative or wrong about that.”
Dumas also sponsored an event on campus on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, where members of Pride Club passed out rainbow Tahoe buttons and danced to music in the cafeteria. It was a celebration of love and acceptance, with rainbow streamers lining the cafeteria, a bold pride flag perched in the front, Lady Gaga music, and SNC’s supportive allies. One supporter is club advisor and director of student affairs, Lizzie Thibodeau.
Thibodeau explains she has been the advisor for the club for approximately 10 years, although over those years it is often difficult to find people to keep the club running. This year there has been a greater demand for it, and so it has expanded thanks to Dumas and her friends.
“I don’t see pride being any different than the rock climbing club,” Thibodeau said. “It’s just a different interest. I think the thing people get caught up in ‘Well, I’m not gay,’ and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s not what this is about.’ It’s about supporting everybody in your community as well as being able to educate people.”
Thibodeau grew up in a very liberal environment and was surprised to find as she grew older that anyone could have a problem with the LGBT+ community.
“It was really eye-opening to go into the world and know that there are other places where people are really hateful towards people because of their sexuality,” Thibodeau said. “The whole idea is that love is love and I feel like there are other things to worry about than who’s sleeping with who.
“It can be a really hard time for people to come out of the closet or embrace their sexuality. Sometimes our peers and our community use a certain language that prohibits that, I think it can make it that much harder.”
Thibodeau’s advice to students who see homophobic behavior happening on campus is to confront it.
“You have a couple options: you can get offended and defensive and strike back, (or) you could ask why?; because nine times out of 10 you’re going to get a completely different answer than what you are getting upset about. Then (they are) able to take a step back and be like ‘Why did I just say that?’ and understand the origin of where it came from.”
Many members of pride club come because they feel it is their duty to be supportive of their fellow peers, such as Freshman Nicolette Scardina.
“Even though I may not be a part of the community I still want to understand as much as I can,” Scardina said. “Everyone is different regardless of who you are or where you come from. The exposure to learning about how ‘straight’ isn’t a default or stipulation for being human (and) it’s important to being able to connect with people.
“I think of pride as accepting differences in a safe environment and belonging to something bigger than a societal norm.”