It's oftentimes hard for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to live in a world geared toward traditional gender roles.
This week, students at California State University, Stanislaus are learning about those challenges – and how to celebrate who they are, be it gay or straight – at the college's first-ever LGBT Awareness Week.
“The entire purpose is not only to raise awareness, but to show students that they should have pride in who they are,” said event coordinator Gaby Farias, who also serves as ASI social awareness coordinator.
On Tuesday, students learned about transgender issues, as organizers asked them to dress and act in an unfamiliar way. That sort of uncomfortable lifestyle is how transgender people feel every day, organizers said.
Students were also asked to fill out surveys in support of more gender-neutral bathrooms, useful for transgender individuals and families alike.
Wednesday saw a gay and lesbian awareness event, set up like the popular website PostSecret. Students were asked to fill out anonymous postcards describing their opinions on the LGBT community.
The responses were almost universally positive, Farias said. Many wrote “love is love” on their postcards, she said. Other students wrote that they themselves were gay, potentially inspiring other LGBT students to know they aren't alone.
Those postcards will be crafted into collages and be posted across campus as a more lasting reminder of LGBT Awareness Week.
An anxiety and depression workshop on Thursday looked to aid people having issues coming to terms with their sexuality.
And the week culminated Friday with a pride parade, to inspire students of all orientations to be themselves and have pride in who they are.
After the parade, a student drag show competition set the stage for the highlight of the week: a professional drag show, put on by performers from the Carnival Caberet, Lake Tahoe's longest running show. The free, professional show drew more than 350 attendees.
The week's success has organizers already looking forward to next year's LGBT Awareness Week. But more importantly, it's helped to build a sense of community and acceptance for CSU Stanislaus' lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, Farias said.
“We've had a lot of students say that it's really nice to see that our campus is open, that there are LGBT issues we're raising awareness about,” Farias said.