With most students and faculty away for the summer Pride Month can feel quiet on WSU campuses, but work continues to support LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff, and community members.
The President’s Commission on Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation (GIESO) and the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC) have been busy this month – and over the past year – building initiatives that will benefit queer-identified Cougs across the system.
“We don’t limit ourselves to June – we work on Pride the whole year,” said Bucky McKenzie, curriculum specialist at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in Spokane and immediate past chair of GIESO.
Building a welcoming community
This past year more than ever, a sense of community and access to resources are vital to the success and health of all Cougs.
GIESO is currently building a webpage that compiles resources for queer-identified Cougs, hiring a paid intern from Murrow College to help with communications, and working on GIESO Guides, a mentorship program that will connect queer-identified students, faculty, and staff who are new to the WSU community with current LGBTQ+ Cougs.
“We want to make sure queer-identified folks don’t have to start from scratch to adapt to WSU and their broader community,” McKenzie said.
With the return of students to system campuses this fall, GIESORC is planning two in-person sessions of its annual Q*Hort program that connects new LGBTQ+ students to resources and fellow Cougs. The sessions will cover safe spaces, name and pronoun changes, where to get medical care, and – for the first time – information about career services and study abroad.
“We’re excited about Q*Hort this year because it’s the first time we’ve really reached out to sophomores and transfer students,” Jeffries said. “We’re hoping to help create a community for people, because that’s what we’re about.”
GIESORC is also working on a comprehensive student health care initiative and an effort to list pronouns on CougarCards and class rosters. For both Jeffries and McKenzie, adding pronouns in these places is an important step toward creating a more welcoming and inclusive WSU community.
“Respecting and declaring pronouns is one thing we can do to be supportive of the trans and gender-nonconforming communities,” McKenzie said. “It’s a really simple way to help people.”
Being an ally during Pride – and beyond
Making WSU a supportive place for queer-identified folks isn’t just about creating programs and spaces for LGBTQ+ folks and celebrating Pride – it’s about creating a culture of allyship.
McKenzie suggests allies start with simple things like adding their pronouns to their email signature and Zoom name, saying their pronouns when they’re introduced to people, and advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms stocked with menstrual products.
Jeffries recommends education – taking an allyship training, following LGBTQ+ activists on social media, subscribing to queer-led news sources, and learning how to respond when you encounter homophobia and transphobia.
“Those things are so informative because they disrupt what we know,” he said. “They give you new perspectives and help you identify the privileges you have.”
And this month, Jeffries and McKenzie said it’s key for everyone to educate themselves the roots of Pride.
“Pride started as a riot. It started with people dying for the cause,” McKenzie said. “People are starting to realize that Pride isn’t just unicorns and rainbows – they’re understanding the meaning behind it.”
Jeffries said that understanding Pride’s origins makes the celebratory side of the month a little sweeter.
“It’s important to find the joy in Pride and remember that it’s because of those origins that we can gather in these ways.”