As a community, which is as diverse as any other, we have come a long way in the campaign for equality. Having made significant progress in the struggle for rights, there is a lot of work that remains to be done. With the current administration, it remains more important than ever to continue to strive for progress. We need to let each and every individual that identifies with the LGBTQ+ community know that we are here for them and that we will fight with you and for you.
Each year, the University of Texas at Dallas, through the Office of Student Volunteerism, sends students to participate in what is known as the Alternative Spring Break trip. This is an opportunity for students to engage in a week of service during their week off. In collaboration with the Galerstein Gender Center and the non-profit organization, Campus Pride, the decision was made to bring a team of students to work on the social issue of LGBTQ+ & Ally advocacy. A team of seven dedicated individuals, with varying levels of activism experience, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to work with Campus Pride.
Upon our first day, we engaged in several workshops to ensure everyone was equipped with the knowledge of current issues that face the LGBTQ+ community. We began our first project of several that week. This included updating the information provided in the Trans Policy Clearinghouse webpage. As a team, we updated information regarding the following non-discrimination policies: transition-related medical expenses under student and employee health insurance policies, gender-inclusive housing policies, name, gender, and pronoun changing policies on forms on student records, trans-inclusive intramural athletic policies, colleges and universities with LGBTQ identity questions on application and enrollment forms, and lastly, women’s colleges with trans-inclusive admission policies.
The second day encompassed hearing from keynote speakers and continuing to update the Trans Policy Clearinghouse webpage. Our first speaker, Roberta Dunn, is a transgender woman who transitioned later in life. A fierce advocate for transgender rights in North Carolina, she recounted her journey of transformation and how she openly shares her story as a means of advocating for her community and making connections with allies. Our second speaker was Donald Wilson, a loan administrative manager for Wells Fargo, who identifies as a gay man. Donald discussed the diversity initiatives of the company and how they work to create progressive policies that make the workplace a more welcoming environment for individuals from all walks of life.
Our third day focused on a social media campaign. We filmed videos to support and advocate the work Campus Pride does as a non-profit organization. The short clips involved thanking current Campus Pride donors for their charity, asking new and potential donors for contributions for national Give OUT Day, and reaching out to RuPaul’s Drag Race queens and LGBTQ+ & Ally celebrities for donations as well. Later that evening, we enjoyed the night out by eating a delicious dinner at Fuel City Pizza and watching drag queen performances at 1820 Boulevard. Overall, the day was a lot of fun, as well as impactful!
The fourth and last day was dedicated to completing our projects. As a group, the Trans Policy Clearinghouse webpage was updated and videos were finalized. In addition, one of our members volunteered to write a book review on Sarah McBride’s new novel Tomorrow Will Be Different. Lastly, as a special treat for the day, we got to engage in a group conference call with drag queen Eureka O’Hara from season 9 and 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We got the opportunity to ask questions about the ins and outs of being a drag queen who uses her platform to embrace diversity and body positivity. Our day closed with a reflection of the lessons learned this week about creating awareness, initiating change, and making a difference in the Dallas community.
This service-learning experience has impacted each and every one of us on a personal level. Shane Windmeyer, the founder and executive director of Campus Pride, for all of us, has made us aware of the variety of obstacles that our community endures each and every day and has given us the skills and confidence to embrace these issues head-on. As we travel back home, everyone has developed a new perspective on what it means to be an ally. We have learned that often times the power to change lives comes from simply being yourself and advocating for the issues that are important to us.
Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.