As part of the kick-off Stonehill PRIDE Week Rally, Patrick Hale, assistant director of Intercultural Affairs, shared remarks that shed light on the significance of Stonehill PRIDE Week and the need to celebrate LGBTQ+ people even in this current political and social landscape. Patrick’s remarks are featured below:
Good afternoon everyone!
My name is Patrick Hale, and I am the assistant director in the Office of Intercultural Affairs. I am so thrilled to be able to speak to all of you during our first ever Stonehill PRIDE Week! (audience applause) I am truly excited to bring this initiative to Stonehill College, and equally as elated to celebrate this week with all of you.
As mentioned in its first announcement, the goal of Stonehill PRIDE Week is manifold. First, this event serves as a space to affirm and celebrate the many individuals on campus who identify as lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or any other marginalized sexual orientation or gender identity. Second, it provides opportunities for the campus to demonstrate their support and allyship to the LGBTQ+ community at Stonehill through further celebration, education, and awareness-building. Lastly, this is one additional step in holding Stonehill to its commitment as a Holy Cross institution that demonstrates concern for the dignity of every individual and justice and compassion for LGBTQ+ people.
When I first came up with the idea of creating Stonehill PRIDE Week, I was admittedly nervous. I was worried that the idea would be met with resistance. I was even worried that there would be no desire to talk about LGBTQ+ issues and community needs here at Stonehill College. I feared that possibly no one would see value in this initiative, and that I might even find myself having reservations about being an openly queer person working at an institution like Stonehill.
Through these fears and worries, however, I found support, reassurance, comfort, affinity space, and hope. Furthermore, the support that I received from senior leadership at Stonehill, from my colleagues in Intercultural Affairs, from several other colleagues in various departments across campus, and from countless students were all signs that maybe this is something that our community needed. I also spent time thinking about how I could make Stonehill PRIDE Week an important initiative that was not just for me, but for the students, staff, and faculty at Stonehill College. I also thought about the importance of discussing relevant and current LGBTQ+ issues and topics that impact our community. And I also knew that I wasn’t the only one who was thinking about these issues and the realities of being out at a Catholic institution of higher learning.
It was also important to have this week, particularly in light of recent events that have impacted the LGBTQ+ community. Just four moths ago, our world experienced the unfortunate tragic , and heartbreaking events of June 12, 2016, when 49 LGBTQ+ friends and allies had their lives claimed by the hands of homophobic gun violence during Latinx Night at Pulse Nightclub, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
This tragedy came at a time of year when numerous cities around the world were celebrating LGBTQ pride throughout the summer months. It is also in this year that 87 bills across the United States have been introduced to limit LGBTQ rights, not even a year after same-sex marriage was declared legal by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is also in this year alone that more than 20 transgender people were murdered, with a majority of them being people of color. Hearing such news may suggest that equality doesn’t seem within reach.
Yet, we do know that the LGBTQ community is strong, resilient, resourceful, and powerful. Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the movement for equality for LGBTQ+ people has grown in tremendous ways. The fight to be represented in all levels of our society, to have our identities be affirmed, and to have our rights be bestowed to us has been an uphill struggle, and remains so. Nevertheless, even with the many setbacks that we have experienced, we remain committed to the cause of having our dignity and worth be recognized by our companions on this earth. Stonehill PRIDE Week is a very small effort in that recognition.
As some of you may know, last week on October 11 marked the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day This annual observance was founded 28 years ago in 1988, one year after the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on the same date. This celebration was inspired in part by this national observance, as it is meant to provide visibility to those who commit to the bold and powerful act of coming out as LGBTQ. This day is special to me because it marks more than 12 years since I first told anyone that I was queer. Since then, I’ve been able to live openly and have no regrets doing so. It amazes me how much time has passed. And in that time I’ve aged incredibly. (audience laughter)
All joking aside, I couldn’t be more thankful for the chance and privilege to live openly and comfortably in my skin. Yet, there is still a tinge of bittersweetness that comes with being out. While I’m grateful for the chance to live openly as a queer black man, let me also lend this space to share that I know that there are still many out there who are fearful of letting their truth out. I recognize that people are worried about the loss or struggle that they may endure when revealing to someone that they are LGBTQ+.
What I want is for our world to be safe for all of our LGBTQ+ siblings and companions on this earth.
What I want is for our straight allies to take on the work of eradicating heterosexism and homophobia.
What I want is for cisgender folks to take on the work of eradicating cissexism and transphobia, and creating a safe space for our trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary siblings and companions.
What I want is for our white LGBTQ+ companions to use their privilege to promote the creation of a redeeming and dignified space for queer and trans people of color.
What I want is for our communities of color to open doors and opportunities for queer and trans people of color to be seen and heard.
What I want is for our LGBTQ+ companions across international lines to be removed from the persecution at the hands of those who seek to eliminate them from this earth.
What I want is justice for LGBTQ+ people all over the world.
What I want is for there to never be a closet door again.
Then I hope there will be no need for a National Coming Out Day, a Stonehill PRIDE Week, LGBTQ+ History Month, or any other LGBTQ+ pride celebration.
Until then, let’s celebrate those voices for sharing their truth, and let’s give hope and peace to those yearning to share their truth.
Now, it goes without saying that there are members of the Stonehill community who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community who are present at today’s rally and will join us at this week’s events. Some of you may consider yourselves to be strong allies to our community, and some of you are still yearning to understand and learn more. Some of you may even be wrestling with the discomfort of knowing that LGBTQ+ people and issues are discussed at a place like Stonehill. Regardless of your connection to the community, we know that you play an important role in how the LGBTQ+ community is treated, not just in how you treat us but also in how you challenge those who don’t treat us with the dignity and respect that we deserve.
Allyship is about demonstrating integrity and impeccable character towards a community that you are not a part of. It is about how you treat someone when they are not in the room. It is about making people think about the things they say, do, or believe that might alienate or do harm to others who are different. We encourage you to think about how you can be an ally to LGBTQ+ people, and take advantage of opportunities to gain more awareness and knowledge.
Together as a community, we have the responsibility and opportunity to shape an environment where we can value and uplift the voices of those marginalized. As we seek to build an environment that promotes thought, action, and leadership for a more just and compassionate world and honors individual dignity, let’s continue practicing what we preach by giving honor to the experiences of our LGBTQ+ companions on this campus and in this world. Let us join head and heart and begin to carve space for LGBTQ+ people. Let us be the kind of community that takes pride in its diverse members, and that lets those who are different share their pride in who they are. Let’s be that community now. Let’s have Stonehill PRIDE.