LGBTQIA+ History Month kicks off at Student Union stage

Ricky King, Queercapella singer and broadcast journalism and documentary major (left), interviews Jade Phoenix Martinez (right). Martinez is an advocate for transgender rights and director of the documentary “Make a Rainbow.” Photo by Gabriella Anderson, staff photographer

As October rolls around, so does LGBTQIA+ History Month. Separate from the mass-celebrated Pride month that occurs in June, LGBTQIA+ History Month pays tribute to queer community leaders and brings awareness to issues that members of the LGBTQIA+ community face.

“Pride month pretty much turns into a big party for a lot of people, which is understandable,” said Emma Barda, a junior broadcast journalism and documentary major. “But history month is more of a reflective time for us, where it’s more about building up our community rather than celebrating. We’re trying to learn more about everything we’ve had to go through.”

The Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) has dedicated the month to activities for students to participate in as either members or allies of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Queer Positivity Day on Oct. 22 and All-Gender Restroom Day on Oct. 29. The month started with a heritage kickoff on Oct. 1 featuring guest speaker, Jade Phoenix Martinez, a trans-femme woman of color who discovered her identity despite her sheltered upbringing.

Proceeding a performance of Madonna’s “Vogue” by Chapman’s Queercappella, approximately 50 students gathered in Argyros Forum to listen to Martinez recite some of her poetry describing her journey transitioning as a woman and to watch her award-winning documentary short film, “How to Make a Rainbow.”

“Queer representation in media is already very slim,” Martinez said. “It’s growing and we’re starting to hit a point where trans people are more visible in media, but sometimes that is through trauma or violence enacted upon trans folks. I wanted to be able to tell a story that was more hopeful.”

Martinez said that educating young people could “do wonders” for homophobia and transphobia.

“We wouldn’t have to do all the work of unlearning all the biases that we grow up with,” Martinez said.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released their 2017 National School Climate survey in October 2018. The study concluded that 63 percent of students said their classes did not include topics that exposed them to representation of LGBTQIA+ people, history or events. California adopted the FAIR Education Act in 2011, making it the first state in the country to encourage textbooks that cover the contributions of LGBTQIA+ community. Three other states have signed bills that mandate teaching LGBTQIA+ history; they are New Jersey, Colorado and Illinois.

“I feel like part of why I want to do visibility work and diversity education is because that’s where empathy comes from,” said Ricky King, a junior documentary major. “If you haven’t been exposed to narratives that are different from your own or what’s the dominant narrative in the media, it would help to be hearing more voices that are ‘different’ or ‘other.’”