The Student Union in Argyros Forum was decked with lights, streamers and rainbow flags on Oct. 1. As the heels of drag performers clicked and clacked onstage, campus a cappella group Queercappella performed hits by LGBTQIA+ artists at the Cross-Cultural Center’s Pride Month kickoff.
While Pride Month is nationally celebrated in June, the university observes it in October to allow student to celebrate during the school year, said Caitlyn Cook, a senior creative writing major and student programmer for the event.
With almost 70 people at the event, Cook said she became emotional seeing the support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“(Members of the queer community) are kind of invisible, and Chapman’s erasure is a microcosm for society’s erasure of us,” Cook said. “Watching people who are celebrating their own pride and wearing flags as capes and tube tops is such a big deal to us.”
Tony Ortuno, the LGBT Center OC’s youth program coordinator, shared his story about coming out at the event and said that visibility in the LGBTQIA+ community, including seeing same-sex couples more frequently, is what made him feel comfortable enough to come out.
“Coming out to my family was an obstacle, because I wasn’t sure if I would be kicked out or not,” Ortuno said. “I knew that if something happened and I was forced to leave my house, I would have my community already set in place.”
The LGBT Center OC provided handouts detailing services offered by the center at the event. These programs include connecting members of the transgender community to supportive health care providers, as well as offering services for LGBTQIA+ people who might need support with immigration services.
Transgender youth are eight times more likely than their non-transgender peers to miss school due to feeling unsafe, according to statistics from the Orange County Department of Education that Ortuno shared at the event.
The statistics were drawn from data reported by the California Healthy Kids Survey, which is given to students in fifth, seventh, ninth and eleventh grade.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual students are four times more likely to miss school than their straight peers, according to the survey, and almost 30 percent of LGBTQIA+ students fear being assaulted at school.
The university is taking steps to create a more inclusive environment, but the event doesn’t “speak volumes” because most of Chapman’s student population is primarily cisgender and heterosexual, said Andrea Stain, a senior music major and member of Queercappella.
“As much as these events with all the streamers and the lights and the tabling (are) great, it’s also important for (Chapman) to put their feet on the ground and put your actions and your hands where your mouth is,” Stain said. “When it comes to these events, Chapman comes through, but when it comes to reports and incidents where marginalized people are in danger. That’s where they fall short.”
After Queercappella’s performance, Gage Jennings, sophomore business administration major, took the stage as “Queen Jade” to perform a drag routine, donning black platform heels and posing to the beat of renowned drag queen RuPaul’s song “The Beginning” and “Sleepwalker” by Lucian Piane.
Kevin Stockbridge, who teaches an introductory LGBTQIA+ studies course at Chapman, brought his class of about 25 students to the event.
“I brought my class as an important part of the LGBTQ Studies course, seeing how queer identities are celebrated and live on our own campus,” Stockbridge wrote in an email to The Panther.
Melody Carey, president of Queer Student Alliance and a junior mathematics and theater studies double major, thinks the university might be hosting the event to counterbalance the lack of LGBTQIA+ representation on campus.
“It’s important to support this kind of stuff, so I felt both obligated to, and wanted to, come,” said Carey, who identifies as gay. “It’s great that they are doing this … I feel like there’s a bit of overcompensation, but I love it. It’s really great that (the university) is supporting this.”