LGBTQ organizations at Penn celebrated Pride Month over the month of June, launching events and projects aiming to strengthen belonging and solidarity within the LGBTQ community.
Celebrated annually, Pride Month recognizes the contributions and impact of the LGBTQ community across the world. Penn’s LGBT Center partnered with departments and groups across the University to bring Pride programming to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Philadelphia community members. Events were held in person, virtually, or in a hybrid format, welcoming attendees both on and off campus to come together and learn about issues surrounding LGBTQ groups.
LGBT Center Director Erin Cross worked with Associate Director Malik Muhammad to plan this year’s Pride Month events, using student input and interest from the Penn community to create a schedule of events that uplifted LGBTQ identities. While eased COVID-19 restrictions allowed the LGBT Center to offer some in-person Pride events in 2021, Cross wanted to expand upon last year’s offerings to allow the Penn community to celebrate together again.
Collaborations with other University groups — many of whom approached the LGBT Center to institute more pride-themed events in their departments, according to Cross — allowed the recognition of the LGBTQ community to extend to a greater portion of the Penn community, not just undergraduate students.
Events included a Pride Wellness Walk on June 16 sponsored by Penn Human Resources and a graduate student happy hour and flower crown-making session on June 17 sponsored by Lambda Grads. A virtual discussion about transgender athletes was held on June 21 in honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23, sponsored by the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, Penn Law School, and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Department.
Cross told The Daily Pennsylvanian that these entertaining and educational events highlight that there is a place for everyone at the LGBT Center and in the LGBTQ community at Penn overall.
“I think it's really important in Pride Month, to really come back to something that grounds us every day … we really want folks to feel like they're part of a community,” Cross said. “We don't care [about] their sexual orientation, their gender identity. We're never going to ask any of that. But we want folks to feel like they belong somewhere.”
This year’s Pride Month comes in the wake of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced across the United States, especially against the transgender and nonbinary communities. Most recently, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill on June 7 that prohibits trans women from participating in women’s sports.
During the Pride Wellness Walk, Muhammad told PennToday that the bill is “disheartening” and believes that trans and nonbinary people should be “uplifted and acknowledged by folks in power to make change.” Cross also noted that the recent rise in legal challenges the LGBTQ community is facing is on the minds of many people in Penn’s LGBTQ community this pride month.
Cross said she hopes that attendees of the LGBT Center’s events can continue to build relationships among the Penn community, even after Pride Month comes to an end.
“I'm just really excited that folks who have been involved seem to be getting things out of it — feeling like they belong, making new connections within the community and across different communities at Penn, where sometimes you can be really siloed,” Cross said.
The LGBT Center closed out Pride Month celebrations with the premiere of rising College senior Tamia Harvey-Martin’s short film “A Foolproof Guide to Relationships” on June 28. The film follows two friends learning how to navigate attractions and relationships “that aren’t necessarily romantic or strictly platonic,” Harvey-Martin told the DP.
Her short film was created with the timing of Pride Month in mind, as she used the LGBTQ community, especially the asexual community, as a major theme in her filmmaking process.
“I was thinking about ‘Pride Month is coming up’ and I'm also, you know, I want to see a lot more representation out there for like, you know, characters that are asexual, you know, characters that are aromantic,” Harvey-Martin said.
While the story is set at an “unnamed college” to reach a broader audience, Harvey-Martin still wanted to make Penn a major influence throughout the film. She used four on-campus locations to shoot her film: her dorm room in Gregory College House, the Kelly Writers House, the LGBT Center, and Van Pelt Library, along with two off-campus locations. She also used actors from the Performing Arts Council and the greater Penn community to create her film, as well as received opportunity funding from the University to purchase a camera for filming.
Her short film is now available to stream online via the TamiaFilms YouTube channel. Harvey-Martin hopes that viewers will gain a greater understanding of asexuality from the film and its shared experiences within the LGBTQ community.
“Penn is really special because the asexual community is very much welcomed in the LGBT community. I would like that to be a more universal experience among the LGBT community,” Harvey-Martin said. “The more we work to understand each other, the stronger we'll be as a community.”