LGBTQ students and allies braved the cold and a few minutes of snow to show their pride of and support for the LGBTQ community in Binghamton University’s first Pride Parade.
The marchers started in Lot M at 2 p.m. on Saturday and paraded around the residential communities and down to a celebration on the Peace Quad, where LGBTQ student groups and Real Education About College Health (REACH) tabled and gave information about their organizations and safe sex. BU a cappella groups Rhythm Method and The Harpeggios performed after the parade as well.
Matthew Walsh, a second-year graduate student studying student affairs administration, organized the parade as well as an LGBTQ student panel on Wednesday, which featured students describing coming out at BU as well as other LGBTQ campus issues.
Walsh organized these events as a part of the independent study for his degree, with help from student groups Rainbow Pride Union (RPU) and SHADES. He said his experience transferring from a college with a very large LGBTQ population to BU, where he said he found less of an LGBTQ presence, inspired him to host the event.
“I came out at my previous institution, and the only reason I felt brave enough to do so was because there were so many people that were just like me,” Walsh said. “I can’t imagine being a freshman in this environment and not seeing everything I saw at my old institution. I was hoping, by doing this, to increase our visibility and make these students know that this is a safe and welcoming environment, and we accept all people.”
Walsh said that an LGBTQ Resource Center, which would organize events and offer services for students, is in the works, but said he wanted to give BU a vision for the future of the Center, which he said was direly needed because of the absence of administrative programming on LGBTQ issues.
“Because the LGBTQ Student Resource Center isn’t fully formed yet, there’s a vacuum for programming, and as a result, a lot of the programming has fallen on the student LGBTQ groups,” Walsh said. “I’m hoping that students continue this parade in years to come.”
Alexia Mercedes, the president of SHADES and a sophomore double-majoring in art and design and English, said that the club was marching in the parade and tabling to show students that they are a resource. SHADES is the first and only LGBTQ club for minority students, though they are open to all students.
“Any opportunity where we can reach out to people and let other people know that there are organizations on campus catered to them, to students under the spectrum,” Mercedes said. “We take whatever opportunity to get our name out there.”
Mercedes said she would compare the pride parade to a parade celebrating a nationality.
“We see people who are out and proud and waving our flag, and it makes us feel like we have a community,” Mercedes said. “The more pride parades, the better.”
Marcher Eric Leiderman, a senior majoring in sociology, said pride parades help those in the LGBTQ community be proud of who they are.
“Parades are good because it’s important at Binghamton for all students to express themselves and have their own voice,” Leiderman said. “By marching and having a parade and coming out together, we show that we’re proud of who we are.”