‘There are plenty of mountains to overcome’: Students celebrate Pride Month, acknowledge struggles

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Kaushiki Roy, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the June 28 flipbook.

UT student organizations celebrated diversity, inclusion and acceptance on campus this June for Pride Month.

While students had different areas of focus, including advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in government and forming safe spaces on campus, all organizations have one value in common: pride in their identities.

“Pride is a reminder that the fight to end discrimination of LGBTQ+ folks in Texas, in the U.S. and around the world continues, and there are plenty of mountains to overcome,” history senior Ric Galavan said.

Galavan is the campus organizer for Texas Rising, a political organization advocating for progressive ideals in Texas. During Pride month, Texas Rising highlighted the history of Pride in Texas, including the successes and the struggles for LGBTQ+ equality through their social media accounts.

Galavan said they will be continuing their efforts past pride month by advocating against Texas Legislature bills such as Senate Bill 29, which would force athletes to play sports not based on gender identity, but sex assigned at birth.

Another campus organization, the Queer and Trans Student Alliance, is an agency of the University’s Student Government that works with LGBTQ+ youth and advocates for social rights with other organizations.

During pride month, the alliance created a fundraiser selling pride merchandise such as shirts, bucket hats, buttons and stickers, and used the profits to create a scholarship for LGBTQ+ students, said Adrienne Hunter, a fifth year anthropology, radio-television-film and women and gender studies student.

“UT has a lot more to do to be inclusive to LGBTQIA+ students,” Hunter said. “There are a lot of tangible actions, such as more gender neutral restrooms and more accessibility to gender inclusive housing that UT can take to make queer and trans students feel more welcome.

UT students have also formed pride organizations specific to different colleges. OUTLaw, formed under the University’s School of Law, focuses on supporting students who identify as LGBTQ+ by providing resources for classes, networking or anything else students need to feel successful at the law school.

“Law as a field tends to skew to the perceived ‘normative’ identities, like white, male and cis-hetero,” said Josue Teniente, an immigration and family law student. “OUTLaw helps to provide a safe space for students in a field where they don’t necessarily feel represented.”

Teniente said during Pride Month, he educated himself on the struggles that other identities face while also trying to be more comfortable with his own identity publicly.

“I recognized that I was bisexual in 2018, so while I’ve accepted my identity, I want to try to learn to be more public with that part of my identity,” Teniente said. “Pride Month helps me do so by watching and listening to the stories of others, and listening to their narratives gives me courage and hope.”

Teniente said while the University has held events that induced equality, it has a long way to go in order for the LGBTQ+ community to feel fully accepted.

“At the Law School, it’s complicated because other organizations will bring speakers or host talks that debate issues that directly impact our lives,” Teniente said. “It can be exhausting to have to defend our existence, and when these organizations do these events or when students make certain points in classes ‘just to play devil’s advocate,’ it only compounds our exhaustion.”