On Oct. 29, UAH held its first ever Pride Resource Fair out on the greenway to both celebrate the university’s LGBTQ population and inform both them and their allies about the resources available to them.
The fair was the culmination of UAH’s first Pride Month, which was organized by UAH counselor Celia McKechnie and represented a joint effort by the Counseling Center, Student Life, Housing, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and others. The activities organized through the month of October included film discussion, forums for coming out stories, and others focused on celebrating the school’s diversity.
The Resource Fair consisted of tables set up around the greenway outside the Charger Union by LGBTQ-friendly organizations from both on and off campus. These, along with their services, are listed below:
- The Counseling Center hosted a booth for coming out photo shoots, with a variety of props and costumes and a door painted with assorted pride colors to let students symbolically and literally come out of the closet. The Center is also a very inclusive environment, with counselors experienced in helping LGBTQ students. In addition to individual counseling, which comes at $15 per session, they offer several group options, including Trans+ for transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students; and Out of the Shadows, which is for African American men who identify as gay, or bisexual.
- Thrive Alabama, in addition to a table of information, brought a mobile testing unit to offer students free and confidential screenings for HIV and hepatitis C. Thrive is a healthcare provider located in Huntsville that offers a full range of services accessible to uninsured and underinsured patients. In addition to STD/STI treatment, they offer primary care, pediatrics, and help for addictions and substance abuse. They also hormone replacement therapy for transgender men and women and consultation for other gender affirming procedures.
- The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion fights for respect of diversity with regards to race, ethnicity, disability, and religion as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. Among their services, which are listed on their page, are name changes for transgender students — which can be applied for at any time and affect all student accounts without requiring a legal change — and a list of gender-neutral bathrooms.
- The Women and Gender Studies Program offers an environment open to all students regardless of gender or major. Aside from offering a minor, they frequently host events such as film screenings, guest speakers, and dialogues.
- Housing and Residence Life, along with Greek Life, ran a table where students could tie-dye pride T-shirts and create custom buttons with preferred names and pronouns. Residence Life takes steps to be an inclusive environment and can make arrangements for students concerned about harassment or seeking affirming housing.
- Student Life had a table representing their new civic engagement position, encouraging students to register to vote and take action in their communities.
- Queer Student Recognition, one of two student organizations to host a table at the event, was advertising their club and answering questions. QSR is open to all LGBTQ students as well as straight and cisgender allies who want education about queer topics. In addition to information, they provide students with support and solidarity from peers. Anyone interested in QSR should contact [email protected] for meeting times and questions.
- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was the other student organization present at the fair. While UAH’s chapter is only a year old, it has already built a membership of approximately 60 students and made a name for itself recently by winning Charger Stomp and having their representative be voted homecoming queen. NAACP prioritizes being a safe space to students who need it, including members of the LGBTQ community. Their activities include community service, mentorship, and joint meetings with other student organizations. They can be contacted at [email protected].
- Crisis Services of North Alabama, a local nonprofit focusing on aiding victims of domestic abuse, had a table outlining their services and spreading the message that victims of abuse don’t have to remain silent. Among their services are a free anonymous chat with a crisis counselor available on their website, help and advice in accessing shelters for victims, and counseling. Their crisis helpline is (256)-716-1000.
- GLSEN is a non-profit organization focused on promoting inclusivity for LGBTQ individuals in education from kindergarten through high school. They do this both by planning events, conducting independent research into cultivating a supportive environment, and providing workshops and materials for people who want to learn more about the community. They are currently the only chapter of GLSEN in Alabama.
According to the Counseling Center, a total of 122 students completed the entire event, visiting every booth and table and collecting a free bag of pride-themed items at the end. Many more students passed through, admiring the rainbow design on the sidewalk and the visiting just a few of the tables, ending UAH’s first pride month on a high note. McKechnie said there are already plans for expanding the event next year. She hopes to orient the event not only towards LGBTQ students but also to allies and advocates, putting more of a focus on diversity and education. She also hopes to bring in more off-campus organizations, and encourage departments to host LGBTQ speakers.