Opinion: Pride Month is Celebration and a Call for Justice in Libraries, Classrooms, and Cafeterias
By Irissa Baxter-Luper
As we enter June, LGBTQIA+ Pride is celebrated across the globe. Catalyzed by riots at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969, Pride is not just a time for celebration, but a time to call for justice for LGBTQ+ individuals. As public opinion waivers, higher education institutions face an important choice: to be vocal advocates or to turn a blind eye.
Across the state and country, LGBTQIA+ students continue to be bullied, classrooms are increasingly hostile, and libraries are erasing themes related to gender and sexuality. This injustice is nothing new, but part of a long history of persecution of marginalized individuals.
I’m often reminded of my academic career in genocide studies. A key method of oppression is creating a climate of uncertainty, fear, and discrimination. Pride month is supposed to be a time of high visibility and support; unfortunately, we are already seeing the effect of our current hostile climate, with corporations already scaling back their Pride support to avoid the wrath of those against LGBTQIA+ acceptance.
In my work with students across colleges, I am hearing of consistent pushback against LGBTQIA+ visibility. LGBTQIA+ students, faculty, and staff are seeing a sizeable shift in climate: programming becoming less intentional, individuals transferring or relocating due to inhospitable environments, and the overall diminishing of the campus LGBTQIA+ community.
Oppression succeeds when violence is not laid bare. We must continue to center LGBTQIA+ community and experience, despite the pressure to remove this community from the public sphere. We must remember now more than ever that pride is a riot – that this movement was born out of a moment of violence against LGBTQIA+ bodies. Prejudice may be rampant, but so too is the opportunity for justice.
If invisibility is the goal, then visibility is a key tool for justice. Universities taking a visible stance against censorship of race, gender, and sexuality should be commended. It is not the time for Pride without action. We must have more than rainbow flags, but strong and clear support for LGBTQIA+ people by individuals with the power and position to create change.
As we enter the next semester, let us take the spirit of Pride and our demand for justice in libraries, classrooms, and cafeterias with us.
Irissa Baxter-Luper is Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Support & Resources Community of Practice at the Tulsa Higher Education Consortium and works at the reproductive justice non-profit Take Control Initiative, where she connects the organization with Tulsa’s college campuses and advises the student-led sexual health Peer Health Educators. Prior to Take Control, she worked at Oklahoma State University for six years as both the Coordinator of Women’s and LGBTQ+ Affairs and Sexual Assault Victim Advocate. In her free time, she also serves as an organizer and policy analyst for Tulsa Intersectional Care Network.