Union’s queer community held its fifth annual Pride Walk this past Saturday, April 23, and introduced Queer Monologues for the first time ever. The Pride Walk was the result of cooperation and coordination between more than 50 groups from both Union and Schenectady, lead by a specially selected committee of interested students, faculty and members of the Schenectady queer community.
Beginning around 9:30 a.m., tens of Union students gathered on South Lane to help set up the event. Once noontime rolled around, South Lane was brimming with the manifestation of queer pride, and more than 100 students stood ready to march. Prior to the first steps of the Walk, several individuals gave speeches concerning the progress the queer community has made, the progress yet to be made and the purpose of Pride Walks. Director of Multicultural Affairs Jason Benitez, Chief Diversity Office Gretchel Hathaway and CEO of Albany Pride Center Michael Weidrich all addressed different angles of queer pride.
At last, after a vigorously cheered count-down by members of SAFE, the march got underway.
A crowd of eager marchers poured out of Blue Gate onto Union Street, some adorned with vivid rainbow-colored accessories. The parade of queer pride walked down Union to North Jay Street, where the congregation turned left, eventually cutting across the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway behind College Park Hall to Nott Street. The march turned onto Lenox Road, passing behind Frank Bailey Field and onto Union Avenue before arriving back on campus through the Class of 1884 gate. As the crowd walked the final leg of the journey down South Lane the excitement was palpable and the frontmost marchers, lead by Angelica Rivera ’18 bearing the transgender flag, broke into a run as the finish line drew near.
Members of the Schenectady community completely unaffiliated with the march showed support for the movement throughout the march. As cars passed the participants they honked their horns, waved, smiled and cheered while Schenectady’s finest accompanied the marchers through the streets, ensuring that the event felt safe. Even the anticipated tension between the marchers and the supporters of Donald Trump failed to materialize.
Many students stuck around after the Walk to hear performers from Union and Schenectady, as well as to partake of the pizza and cookies set up for the marchers. Among those performing were the Dutch Pipers, the Eliphalets, Bhangra Union, and Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir. After the performances, former SAFE president Kylie Gorski ’16 and current president Sam Bailey ’18 delivered a part of a monologue and invited people to watch the Queer Monologues, which was to be held in Old Chapel a little less than an hour afterwards.
The Queer Monologues were the brainchild of Bailey, who worked with the rest of SAFE and other members of the Union queer community to bring the idea to fruition. Each monologue was a reflection of the personal experiences of the speaker concerning their sexuality, gender identity or the struggles of the queer community.
Topics ranged from self-discovery to coming out to the poor representation of queer individuals in the media. The event was emceed by Jessica Gilbert ’18, who introduced the pieces and speakers. Union students Kathryn Evans ’17, William Garner ’18, Cassie Padilla ’17, Cassandra Call ’18, William Schwartz ’16, Kentaro Barhydt ’18, Krystal Edwards ’17 and Aileen Shaughnessy ’16, along with Rivera, Gorski, Bailey, Gilbert and Turner, wrote or performed pieces for the event.
During the Monologues, the Alpha Delta Lambda sorority was selling baked goods in the lobby of Old Chapel to raise money for the queer community.
The successful conclusion of the Pride Walk marks a milestone for the Union queer community: five straight years of Pride Walks. “It is my hope that the success of the Union College Community PRIDE Walk will continue and that with each passing year, that Union is looked at by the Schenectady community and by our students, as a place where inclusive excellence thrives. This event is just one small way of raising awareness and increasing advocacy for, very valuable members of our diverse campus.” said Benitez. He went on to talk about how, “In all, the PRIDE walk provides an excellent opportunity for Union College to highlight all the great changes in campus climate we are fostering.”
But, he warned, “Inclusion is an ongoing process that never really has an end to it. You can always do more… We hope the PRIDE Walk and Queer Monologues which followed, were opportunities to do just that.”