Last Monday, the University of Maine kicked off its 34th annual Pride Week, an entire week designated to raising student awareness of LGBTQ+ issues through education and advocacy. The week began with a ceremonial flag raising at noon on Monday, April 8, which was moved from the University Mall into the Memorial Union due to poor weather. In attendance were students and faculty, including the Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana.
Throughout the week, events ranging from lectures to pub crawls and trivia were presented by the UMaine branch of LGBTQ+ Services and Wilde Stein: Queer Straight Alliance.
Wilde Stein, which is named for the Irish poet Oscar Wilde and the American novelist Gertrude Stein, was founded in 1974 by a group of UMaine students looking to create an organization devoted to advancing gay and lesbian rights. The 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which motivated many of the nation’s gay and lesbian citizens to organize, were the primary ignition in Wilde Stein’s creation.
Now entering its 45th year as a student organization, Wilde Stein celebrated its history by hosting an anniversary ceremony and panel on Friday, April 12, in the Memorial Union.
The University’s LGBTQ+ Services Rainbow Resource Center is, like Wilde Stein, dedicated to providing a supportive environment on campus for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. Staffed by Diversity and Inclusion Associate Robert Jackson and student employees, the Rainbow Resource Center provides visitors with information on a variety of LGBTQ+ issues and assists in the staging of campus-wide events including Pride Week and Gay Thanksgiving.
“Pride Week is my favorite week on campus,” Jackson said. “This year, it was important to us that we offer a wide variety of events, to ensure that there truly was something for everyone. We have events that are early in the morning, later in the evening, educational and informative, light-hearted and fun, and both in the Rainbow Resource Center and elsewhere on campus. We’re so excited that the response to our events this year has been absolutely amazing, and moving forward, we hope to create more opportunities for queer folks on campus to come together and celebrate Pride beyond this one week each spring.”
Pride Week culminated on Saturday, April 13, with UMaine’s 15th annual Drag Show. The show, which began at 7:00 p.m. in the Collins Center for the Arts, was free for all students and was hosted by Roxxxy Andrews from the television program “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“It’s incredibly important on such a large and diverse campus as the University of Maine Orono to take a week and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community,” Wilde Stein President M.J. Smith explained. “Their voices, experiences, and presence deserve to be raised, recognized, and validated, even if only for a week out of the academic year.”
“My role as President of Wilde Stein during Pride Week is to be present at events such as the Wilde Stein 45th Anniversary Celebration and Panel, and to appropriately facilitate questions and conversation between Wilde Stein founder Steven Bull and the audience,” Smith said.
Jane Pappas, a graduate assistant and the faculty advisor to Wilde Stein, said that in the five years UMaine has hosted Pride Week it has gotten “bigger and “better.”
“This year, our focus is deliberate inclusion and celebration of a thriving community,” Pappas said. “I’m so happy to get to be a part of the planning and putting together this year.”
“Wilde Stein, LGBTQ+ Services and Pride Week all are here for the community as a whole,” Pappas said. “UMaine has a great population of queer people who deserve visibility and celebration, and that’s what we’re here to do!”
Aside from their mutual involvement with Pride Week, Wilde Stein and UMaine’s LGBTQ+ Services cooperate in sponsoring Coming Out Week, a series of events usually held in October to support and celebrate students coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
More information about Pride Week, Wilde Stein or the University’s LGBTQ+ Services may be found online at https://umaine.edu/lgbtq; or by calling the Rainbow Resource Center at (207) 581-9517.