Pride Month Equality March puts LGBTQ+ students en route to political activism
A chant emanating from the heart of Florida State University’s campus gradually echoing into downtown Tallahassee: “Out of the closet, into the streets!” An energetic group of students and LGBTQ+ supporters projected their voices in celebration of National Coming Out Day, maintaining an air of celebration as they joined together to promote equality.
They proudly carried their signs, ornamented with phrases like, “Butch, please!,” “Equality,” “Proud to be an ally” and “Butch, Don’t Kill My Pride.”
Friday’s Pride Month Equality March to the Capitol sent a clear message that Florida State University’s LGBTQ+ community is strong and continues to gain momentum.
“Today is National Coming Out Day,” said Pride Student Union Executive Director Victoria “Tori” Gentry. “It’s a day of pride, to celebrate how people have had the courage to come out, which it takes a lot, a lot to come out, especially if you are out in all aspects of your life, meaning home, friends, work. It’s a really big celebratory day.”
The march is held annually in observance of the day, but this year, Gentry said, is the first year the march has culminated at the Capitol.
“One of the things we’ve been focusing on this year is that visibility is really important,” Gentry said. “Through visibility, especially on campus, people become more aware of our issues, which, I think, breeds inclusivity and the more people know, the safer campus is.”
Apparent from the cheers of onlookers coming to and from class and supportive honks from an FSU bus driver, the LGBTQ+ community and all marching allies represented their cause in a very effective and visible way.
Fostering visibility and inclusion, this year’s march saw FSU’s Pride Student Union partner with NAACP, who, according to Gentry, are a perfect ally in the cause for equality.
“They came to us to make it a really big deal,” Gentry said. “They believe in equality for all as well. They wanted to partner up with us to make a stance.”
Jarryd Boyd, public relations chair for Pride, explained the significance of bringing the march on a slightly different route, through campus and to the Capitol:
“We’re taking it to the capitol to really highlight LGBTQ+ issues across the state,” Boyd said. “The main message we’re trying to send this year is to really bring equality issues to the forefront. We should be focused on equality issues because the truth is LGBTQ+ members are everyday people who are just the same as their heterosexual brothers and sisters. People think LGBTQ+ issues don’t affect them, but they do. The more we’re talking the more we’re making progress.”
The purpose of the march was to project the voice of the LGBTQ+ community to promote change that will lead to further equality.
Taking the march throughout campus was strategic not only to encourage people to come out and be proud of who they truly are, but also to raise awareness of the issues to the people who will ultimately make the most impact on policy: college students who are also voters.
Bringing the march to the Capitol marks a bigger political move, to let the government know where the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters wish to go.
“It’s about getting people on board with equal rights in general,” FSU student Jo Winters said.
Self-proclaimed “non-traditional” student, Winters, 35, expressed her pride in the people she marched with.
“I’ve learned so much from being at FSU,” Winters said. “Learning about their organizations and watching people transition. It’s just different from when I grew up. Everybody was in the closet. Coming out was a big deal. People were scared. And it’s nice to actually see change happening.”