In honor of the Vigil co-sponsoring General's Unity's opening event of Pride Week, I sat down with Ginny Johnson, president of General's Unity (GU), to discuss all things Pride.
I hope that this interview may not only help to inform allies and those unfamiliar on issues which affect the queer community, but also encourage further participation in Pride Week and other queer-positive events.
But, perhaps even more importantly, I hope this article will help our queer readers feel seen, loved, and validated, especially during a time in which we often find ourselves having to defend our identities both within our own daily lives and also at the governmental level.
- - -
What is pride?
Pride is about celebrating being LGBTQ+, as well as a time for allies to celebrate their LGBTQ+ friends.
What significance does pride have for the queer community specifically?
It’s a time to see yourself represented culturally in a way that we often don’t get to see. Just existing in a heteronormative world can be hard if you aren’t surrounded by other queer people to see role models who you feel are like you. At pride you can see that you really do have a place in the world and within your community, and that there are other people like you who are happy and living full, well-rounded lives.
What are some historical events that led up to Pride?
The most famous historical event that led up to Pride is the Stonewall riots that happened in New York in June of 1969. Basically, police raided a gay bar in NYC called the Stonewall Inn and, in response to this injustice, queer people rioted against police brutality. Although Pride is more associated with celebration than with protest these days, we still recognize that Pride has its roots in protesting the status quo and the mistreatment of queer people.
Why is it important to celebrate Pride on this campus specifically?
Being a predominantly wealthy, white school in the South, the minority experience on this heteronormative campus is particularly difficult. To give a voice to this minority group and to make a space for us where we can feel like we’re being seen and heard on this campus is incredibly important.
What do you hope Pride week will do for those students?
I hope that it gives them a sense that they—we—really do belong in the W&L community. A lot of the time, as a minority on this campus, it can feel very alienating and like you aren’t a “real” W&L student because you aren’t having the majority’s experience on this campus. So to see that the minority experience can be just as fulfilling is really important.
What is General’s Unity?
General’s Unity is the queer student union on campus. We provide a space where members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus, as well as straight, cis allies, can come together and feel safe celebrating the queer community on campus and feel that they can express themselves as whoever they are.
Besides Pride, what are some other things GU does?
We have monthly potlucks where members of the community and allies get together at the LGBTQ+ resource center, Red House, and we spend time together as a community. Then also in March we have the Virginia Equality Gala, which is like fancy dress, but gay.
If someone wants to get involved with GU, how can they?
Stop by our table in Commons during Pride Week! Come to our events! Spend some time at Red House. GU meetings are every other Tuesday at Red House, come by.
What other resources are there for queer students on campus?
There are the LGBTQ+ Peer Counselors who are just like other peer counselors but they are specifically for students who want to talk about issues with being LGBTQ+ or think they might be and want help navigating the process of coming out or figuring out their identity or have any questions or want to talk about anything regarding the LGBTQ+ experience. There is also a weekly support group for members of the community.
What are you most excited for about pride week?
At gay FUDG there will be a queer comedian named Jay Jurden and I’m really excited to see him!
How can allies by supportive of their LGBTQ+ friends during pride week?
Going to events is a good way to be supportive during pride week. Just expressing excitement along with your queer friends that pride week exists and is happening. Anytime that your friend wants to talk about queer experiences, be supportive of them. Basically, in the same way you would be a good friend to your other friends, do that, but with gay people.
Why is it important that pride be inclusive of all people?
Because anyone can be queer! Being LGBTQ+ is an invisible minority identity, like you can’t just look at someone and know that they are queer, so making sure to be welcoming to anyone is the best way to ensure that you aren’t excluding someone who may need it the most.
What does pride mean to you personally?
It’s a time when I get to be even more loud and proud about being a lesbian than I already am. Like I said earlier, it’s a time where I get to feel seen and heard in a way that for most of the year I don’t. And it’s a way for me to feel like I’m really staking my claim as a member of the W&L community as my whole self, which is nice.