The drag ball on Saturday. The mute students in black shirts on Wednesday. The round of couples locking lips in Red Square today. For students on campus, this may have looked just like GU Pride’s annual Pride Week to raise LGBTQ awareness and heighten solidarity on campus. For GU Pride members, though, this week has a distinctly different feel to it.

“What I really think was beneficial is that our efforts have really had long-term effects that have brought the community together in ways it wasn’t before,” said GU Pride Co-President John Harrison (SFS ’09). “GU Pride used to have the stigma that it was all white, gay men, and now we have international students . and just a lot more diversity and a lot more unity. And a lot of it is because we have had to respond to [alleged hate crimes].”

When an alleged hate crime against a gay student garnered national attention in September, GU Pride led a movement for several reforms to better integrate LGBTQ students on campus. A little over a month later, another gay student was assaulted while being called homophobic slurs. GU Pride again demanded university action, and the university responded with the promise of the LGBTQ resource center slated to open this fall.

For Ellen Greer (SFS ’11), GU Pride secretary and treasurer, the actions taken on the part of the university have marked the beginnings of a shift towards dialogue and integration.

“While the university’s original response to the hate crime – waiting until D.C. news picked it up several weeks after it actually happened to address it – was, frankly, unacceptable,” she said. “Their response to students’ requests and concerns, and the ultimate decision to create a resource center, indicates to me, personally, that they are at least working towards improving the systems that are in place.”

Greer added that Pride Week also serves as a reminder for the changes and progress that has been made.

“In the 1980s, the university refused to recognize the gay group on campus as a legitimate group. And now they are paying for the drag ball, and we are getting a resource center in the fall,” Greer said. “So another purpose of Pride Week is to remind people that we are here and that we demand the same rights and respect as any other group, which is part of our campaign for the resource center.”

A point of emphasis for Pride Week 2008 centered on increased dialogue and communication with allies, according to several group leaders.

Greer said that this year’s events were designed particularly in the attempt to expand the group’s reach and focus beyond its members.

“[This week] is not just to engage the people that we already know are in the club, but it is also for the people who aren’t necessarily our allies and for those who cannot come out as allies,” she said.

With these aims in mind, GU Pride has added new activities and elements this year to Pride Week.

“Pride has been trying to shift its focus to be more inclusive of different communities within the LGBTQ community and making people more aware of the intersections, of specifically race and ethnicity, with LGBTQ identities,” said Programming Chair Kristina Mitchell (COL ’10).

The new Pride Week events included a GENDERFUnk drag ball on Saturday, as well as a movie screening of “Trembling Before G-d” on Sunday, a safer sex workshop on Monday, an alumni mixer on Tuesday, and a movie screening and day of silence on Wednesday in protest of the harassment of LGBTQ students across the country.

Harrison said all of these events are designed to raise awareness of these issues, noting the GENDERFUnk drag ball in particular.

“It [the drag ball] really raises visibility for transgender students in general,” he said.

“Essentially, our message is that our similarities here at Georgetown are more important than our differences. The more visible we become, the more positive feedback we get from groups that normally wouldn’t engage with us. The more we engage and talk about it, the more we can become a unified campus culture,” said Programming Chair Antwaun Sargent (SFS ’11).

Sargent said that this week and the results of a year of advocacy reveal positive development for the LGBTQ community.

“We have gone from being a shadow organization to something very vibrant and mainstream in the Georgetown club culture,” he said. “Since the fall, things have been changing two-fold: They’ve been changing in terms of what the university is doing to reach out to us and in terms of the attitudes of the general membership and the campus.”

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