This month, LGBTQ Student Services and STARS (St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society) sponsored Gaypril, a series of events dedicated to the celebration of SMCM’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
Gaypril began with the all day event, Out on the Patio, which showcased fun activities and free merchandise. Sophomore Erica Burns, who tabled during the celebration, was thrilled with the excitement and participation regarding the event. “There was a lot of enthusiasm and pretty big in-your-face excitement!” Students were allowed to paint phrases in relation to the LGBTQ community on the SMCM pride flag, which was held up with honor during the Pride Parade. Sponsored by STARS, the annual Gaypril Pride Parade began at Dorchester Circle and continued around campus as the LGBTQ community and supporters marched and waved to onlookers.
Gaypril continued with a screening of the film Ma Vie En Rose in Cole Cinema. The film depicted the struggles of a transgendered girl and the difficulties of her acceptance. The message presented in the film was one that many LGBTQ students could relate to.
The first-ever SMCM Lavender Graduation, an event held at colleges all over the nation to recognize the achievements of seniors in the LGBTQ community, took place on Friday, April 19 in Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC). Fifteen graduating seniors who were heavily involved in the College’s LGBTQ community, whether it be through as campaigning for marriage equality with STARS or simply being supportive of their LGBTQ friends.
Dean of Students Roberto Ifill, who spoke to the graduates along with Director of the Library and STARS advisor Celia Rabinowitz, said “You have taught us so many things about courage and freedom, about open-hearted friendship without judging, about bringing color and flavor to everything you do. You’ve been models of compassion and support of activism against injustice, whether this injustice has been fueled by intolerance or indifference. Best of all, you’ve taught us by your example that close family ties should embrace rather than exclude.”
Rakeena Banks, one of the seniors honored at the ceremony, saw Lavender Graduation as a sign of St. Mary’s inclusive atmosphere. “It’s great to actually see it happen,” she said. “It’s a good change, and it just shows that the St. Mary’s community is currently progressing and will always continue to progress so long as they have the students that are always willing to fight for this progress.”
One of the biggest turnouts of the Gaypril events was the drag show where two celebrity drag queens, Epiphany B. Lee and Chanel Devereaux, and members of the SMCM community graced the stage. This second annual drag show, held in the upper deck, allowed St. Mary’s students to cheer and support their peers . “It was amazing, all of the performers outdid themselves,” said senior and STARS member Michelle Steahl.
Many students commented on the importance of St. Mary’s including Gaypril events on campus. “It’s good to have a month on campus that commemorates the fact that there are still issues of discrimination towards the LGBTQ community. It’s pretty significant,” said Burns. Through the performances, Gaypril provided a way for students to open up a discussion about what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community. “This is about feeling like I belong here with all of these awesome peoples,” said Steahl. While Gaypril is only a one month celebration, LGBTQ Student Services and STARS dedicate themselves to sponsoring more events focused on honoring SMCM’s LGBTQ students.