University Park, IL,
18:40 PM

A Growing Sense of Pride

No one can say how many members of the Governors State University community identify with the LGBTQIA movement. What they can say is that twice during the 2018-19 academic year, the rainbow flag flew a little higher, a sign of growing awareness and acceptance on campus.

Off campus growing acceptance can be seen as GSU students branch out to Pride festivals throughout June—LGBT Pride Month. This year, the community commemorates the 50th year of the1969 Stonewall uprising in Manhattan, and GSU students are seeking support at Pride fests in Mokena, Flossmoor and Homewood for GSU’s Jackie McKethan LGBTQIA Scholarship.

Jane Cox, advisor to the university’s Gender and Sexuality Club (GNSX) and the CAS Cultural Marketing Director for GSU’s Center for Performing Arts, couldn’t be more proud. “It’s very empowering,’’ she said.

Cox beams as she recalls the large crowds at this year’s Third Annual Spring Variety Show in April and the “Open Mic Night: Coming Out Stories” event in November 2017.

The Spring Variety Show, a playful, burlesque-style event, is growing in popularity, and Cox said the audience has doubled every year. “It’s such a positive, fun night. People come to support their family and friends. And we’ve had some really strong, creative talent from the community.”

One student took the event’s name—“Open Mic Night: Coming Out Stories”—to heart, Cox said. “He told a club member afterward that it had encouraged him to come out to his family. It was a beautiful night—diverse and rewarding,’’ she said.

Across campus, Cox has seen acceptance growing outside of club events.

“In just the few years I’ve been in the GNSX Club at GSU, there’s been quite a shift. We had the GNSX info table set up during Welcome Week, a young man stopped by who told us he was a Christian. He said, ‘I follow Jesus’ teachings, which are about love, and I totally support you.’ "

And while she likes the trend, Cox said more support is needed. “In the current political climate, people feel they have the freedom to discriminate,” she said.