This past week, from April 12 to April 16, pride week celebrations have been in full swing at the University of Maine. The Rainbow Resource Center (RRC) held events to celebrate the LGBTQ community at UMaine and promote diversity and inclusion around campus. The RRC describes themselves as “a center of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), [that] strives to maintain an open, safe, and supportive environment for all students and provides educational opportunities, information and advocacy services.” Pride Week is just one example of many inclusive and fun events that the RRC sponsors throughout the year.
To kick off pride week celebrations, the rainbow flag was raised on the university mall on Monday, April 12 at noon. At every hour the RRC switched out the flag flying below the rainbow flag to spotlight the different gender identities and sexualities that people might have. This made the flag raising more inclusive and allowed every identity to have its time to shine. The RRC would update its Facebook page with photographs of each new flag as they were changed out.
All the flags were posted with supportive messages, but under the picture of the bisexuality flag the RRC brought attention to the issue of bisexual erasure in both the queer and heterosexual communities.
“It is widely believed that there are more bi folks than any other identity within the queer community, but they are still often made to feel like they are just confused or non-committal gay/lesbian or straight people. Bisexuality is valid, and so are you!” the RRC’s post read.
Along with the supportive messages regarding bisexuality, the RRC extended its support to transgender individuals as new legislation is being passed in order to prohibit transgender people from doing everyday tasks like using bathrooms or participating in athletic programs.
In a message posted by the RRC, Staff Associate for Diversity and Inclusion Rob Jackson highlighted many issues the transgender community is currently facing.
“Trans folks and their rights are under attack, and they need our help now more than ever. These bills, over 100 of them in all, protect NO ONE. They only serve to further marginalize, stigmatize, and harm young trans folks who deserve the opportunity to live authentic, happy, and healthy lives,” Jackson wrote in the post.
Unfortunately some events this year did not go on as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement on their Facebook page, the RRC let followers know that the pride parade that was to be held on Monday had to be canceled.
“In the Office for Diversity and Inclusion newsletter, we advertised a car parade on Monday afternoon. Although we had hoped to be able to make that event happen and keep it within the current COVID-19 regulations, we aren’t able to do so and have made the decision to cancel,” the statement read.
However, the RRC proposed a new event which would be in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“Instead, we invite you to dress up, decorate your living space/car/desk or office space in your favorite Pride colors and share your photos with us on Instagram! Use #UMainePride and we’ll share some of our favorite posts on our social media pages,” the Facebook page announced.
Other events aside from the flag raising and social media postings included pride-themed Yoga and Pride Zumba in cooperation with the New Balance Recreation Center. Wilde Stein also sponsored a Jackbox game night, and MaineBound did a Pride Climb which was free to students with a valid MaineCard. Pride Week was a success this year, despite the current restrictions on campus, and the UMaine community banded together to show support for LGBTQ students once again.