William & Mary students volunteer MLK weekend for Alternative Break

William and Mary provides college students have the opportunity to spend the last weekend before the spring semester begins on an Alternative Break. Campus Pride is one of our 2020 service partners, and a group of ten students jumped at the chance to volunteer with this incredible organization that works so tirelessly on the behalf of fellow students.

After a long drive south at the beginning of the service trip, our gaggle of college kids spilled out of the van and eagerly entered the Campus Pride office in Charlotte, North Carolina for the first time. Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride, generously donated his Friday afternoon to us, telling us the story of Campus Pride’s founding in 2001 and its evolution into a bona fide non-profit organization providing countless programs and resources for LGBTQ+ college students. The sometimes encouraging, sometimes disheartening, and sometimes infuriating statistics that he explained to us shed light on the current triumphs and struggles of the LGBTQ+ community. After our educational discussion, we all felt strongly motivated to contribute to Campus Pride’s important work.

The next morning, we attended one of the bi-monthly Drag Brunches that Shane organizes and performs in. For many of us this was our first drag show, and we were all blown away by the energy, outrageousness, and joy that suffused every moment. Though the show was a blast, its deeper significance also struck us: people of all backgrounds had come together in a celebration of free expression, a clear display of the progress society has made towards acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.

Once the brunch was over, we headed back to the Campus Pride office where an intern presented to us on the violence faced by transgender people, especially transgender women of color. The juxtaposition between the upbeat Drag Brunch and this sobering conversation highlighted the dual nature of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community: pride existing alongside the continuing need for resistance. We appreciated that time was taken to focus solely on transgender issues, since this community faces a disproportionate amount of discrimination and violence yet is often underrepresented.

That afternoon our service work began in earnest. Most of us focused on making around 200 handwritten and addressed invitations to the upcoming wigOUT fundraiser in March, where there will be a runway performance and an opportunity for people to bid on over-the-top wigs to raise money for Campus Pride. Meanwhile, the rest of us drew up a press release and sent the event information to a variety of community calendars, radio stations, and TV stations to spread word of the charity event. 

The next day, we put some finishing touches on this work and moved on to collecting information on colleges’ LGBTQ+ resource centers and student groups. We looked for information such as diversity or equity offices, safe zones, student groups, or other resources dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ students and compiled them into one spreadsheet.  This data will be used to populate a map on the Campus Pride website which students can use to easily find support on their campus and incoming students can use to search for a positive climate. Some of us who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community also took turns filming short videos talking about our experiences and what Campus Pride’s work means to us.

When our whirlwind weekend came to a close, we were brimming with ideas on how we could bring what we had learned back with us. While the service we completed made only a small difference for LGBTQ+ students nationwide, it did give us the knowledge and tools that will help us to implement big changes on our own campus. Our weekend with Campus Pride was an invaluable experience that both made us hopeful for the future and galvanized us to keep fighting for progress.

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