Flapping in the wind, a flag hangs beneath the traditional American, Florida and Rollins banners. Its rainbow colors stand out against the sky, transforming it into a symbol of pride.
The raising of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender flag at the beginning of October was one of the key events shaping campus involvement with Orlando Pride Month. It was the first time in campus history that a banner other than the traditional flags was flown. For Sarah Mills ’13, this flag represents a change in the opinions often associated with the LGBT community.
“[The hanging of the flag] shows the school’s support for the LGBT community,” Mills said. “It shows they respect what Spectrum is working for: the goal of understanding the LGBT community and promoting discussion about sexuality and gender.”
October is shaped with additional on- and off -campus events to support pride. Spectrum, the Rollins equivalent of a gay-straight alliance, sponsored events throughout the month to provide support for gay students and to educate others.
“Everyone should have a right to show who they are without being afraid,” Spectrum historian Teena Fehling ’15 said. “They shouldn’t change for anybody.”
Other campus events that occurred included the passing out of milk and cookies to students on Oct. 7. Intended as an educational lesson about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, Spectrum members passed out information sheets while giving out the snacks.
“I was able to hand over every sheet I had printed. People seemed genuinely interested in what we were trying to promote,” Fehling said.
Spectrum members also established “the closet” in the Cornell Campus Center. The display represents the metaphorical closet LGBT people must come out of at some point. It was stocked with information on the LGBT community as well as student-written coming out stories. Fehling felt the closet helped put others at ease about being gay at Rollins.
“The closet is large and captures attention.” Fehling said. “But it is not just the physical display that is influential, but the stories hung inside of it. [The stories] give hope to LGBT students that one day they will be able to come out. It also shows other people that they should be accepting of those students coming out.”
The closet was built on Oct. 11 in celebration of National Coming Out Day. The holiday encourages support for those who publicly identify as LGBT, as well as those who are struggling with coming out. Spectrum member Adrian Alexander ’12 understands the importance of the event.
“It is a day of overwhelming support and love,” Alexander said. “[Coming out] is the first step so many of us take on that road toward self love and acceptance that can dictate who it is that we become. To have a full day dedicated to that monumental step is very powerful.”
Off -campus pride events are also taking place throughout October. Prickly Pear, a restaurant located in downtown Orlando, is hosting a “Come Out With Pride” fundraiser. The event features a raffle and free appetizers and drinks for a suggested donation of $10. The fundraiser is on Oct. 24 and the proceeds will benefit the Come Out with Pride organization.
One annual event is the pride parade in Downtown Orlando. Initially scheduled for Oct. 8, the parade was postponed to Nov. 13 due to inclement weather. Mills, the president of Spectrum, is looking forward to attending her first Pride parade.
“I am looking forward to it because all of the LGBT alliance will be walking together and showing their acceptance of one another,” Mills said.
October is not just a month shaped for LGBT pride; it also promotes awareness and education for the heterosexual community. A program that is specifically intended for educating supporters of the LGBT community is SafeZone Ally training. Trained Ally and Spectrum treasurer Jason Montgomery understands the importance of the SafeZone program.
“Training helps educate people to become successful Allies,” Montgomery said. “It makes you aware of all the different types of people who need help in the community.”
SafeZone training is scheduled for Oct. 22 in the Faculty Club. Montgomery encourages others to attend and participate in the event.
“Showing your support really shows how much you care about the Rollins campus as well as others outside of school,” Montgomery said. “It really shows how caring of a person you are.”
Whether through SafeZone training or participation in a Spectrum-sponsored event, the Rollins community has shown its pride for LGBT students and faculty throughout October. For Fehling, participating in Spectrum demonstrates her own personal pride and shows her commitment toward bettering humanity.
“I am proud to be a part of Spectrum and changing the misconceptions about the LGBT community,” Fehling said. “I hope to change just one person’s mind about being gay.”