UW Tacoma wants to show Pride. Together, a group of campus leaders and community partners have planned a Pride Day celebration that links the campus to the community.
UW Tacoma senior Kendy Trinh is credited with being the catalyst for the event. As the Chair of the Student Activities Board (SAB), he got the idea of having a drag show on campus after attending one during a NACA conference. NACA is the National Association for Campus Activities. Its annual conference brings together student advisors from across the nation to trade tips on planning student activities. “After watching the drag show, I wanted to have one on campus, because we don’t see a lot of LGBTQIA+ representation,” Trinh said.
What was originally meant to be just a drag show has become an all-day occasion starting at noon on May 16. “UWT Pride Day” will give students a chance to deepen their understanding of the queer community around them with the drag show, but also through a resource fair, a keynote from Julia Serano—an American writer, biologist and trans-bi activist—and a discussion panel.
A lot of partners contributed to making Pride Day possible. On-campus groups like the SAB, Center for Equity and Inclusion, Gender and Sexuality Alliance and others had a part in the planning. Even representatives from the YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties and Rainbow Center in Tacoma attended meetings to plan the event.
UW Tacoma junior Morgan Pasquier, the vice president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, was in charge of putting together the drag show. "Drag is kind of a really integral part of the queer community. It always has been," Pasquier said. "There's a huge drag community in Tacoma, and we thought it would be a good way to introduce people to drag culture.”
The show will start with a lesson about drag’s history and significance within the queer community from a local drag queen. From there, students will be able to sign up to dress up and perform themselves. "It's really bold to get into costume and go up on stage to perform. It takes a lot of guts, and I think some people might be kind of hesitant," Pasquier said. "We want to be a chance for people to just have fun and explore, and experiment with gender and gender presentation."
For Pasquier, the drag show is an opportunity for students to learn not only about the art, but also their own gender identities. "I think the drag show is a good opportunity to open your mind up to different possibilities,” Pasquier said. “A lot of people have been taught 'you are this gender, so you have to dress and behave like this,' and drag is a really good way to subvert those ideas and branch out."
On a so-called “commuter campus” like UW Tacoma, it can be difficult to create a sense of community. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. “I really want our Pride Day to be the beginning of talking about LGBTQIA+ representation and issues on campus,” Trinh said. (See this New York Times article for a discussion of the origin and meaning of LGBTQIA.) Pasquier has a similar hope. "I feel like having a community on campus is really important, and the event is a chance for queer students to see that there are people who are here for them and that know what they’re going through, or who are at least willing to empathize,” they said.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org