Greg Wade climbed the worn steps of Old Main past a giant rainbow flag and under the arch of rainbow balloons. He faced the audience of more than 100 and told his story of coming out and the hardship he faced, including “reparative therapy” he endured.
He compared being out on the campus to being on the “frontlines” of war. Wade said that not everyone feels comfortable with being open with sexuality and added the LGBTA community provides a safe place, and he is now proud of who he is.
“I can say it loud. I am very queer and very proud,” Wade yelled into the microphone.
Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally community hosted the Pride Week Rally to speak out on Wednesday. The theme was “Say it loud; we’re queer and proud.”
About 100 people attended the rally, including students from State College Area High School, various Commonwealth Campuses, University Park students and faculty. Students and faculty members stood under the rainbow arch to share their experiences.
The rally promotes visibility for the community and the activism for the cause, Zach Davis said. It is a chance for LGBTA to defend their rights and make a difference, Davis (sophomore-women’s studies) said.
Frank Chumbiray, whose alternate ego is Anita Cox, opened the rally in a black flowy dress with a cheetah pattern top and black leather knee-high boots. The audience started clapping and whooping.
He introduced Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims.
“We have come a long way at Penn State. We stand at the steps of Old Main with pride and no shame,” Sims said.
Then, lesbian comic Kate Clinton ran up the stairs of Old Main to speak to the audience.
She spoke of how the average age of coming out has dropped to 16 years old. She questioned why being gay is still “stigmatized,” adding that women and LGBT should work together for equal rights.
The Sue Rankin Award — which honors people who have been influential to Penn State’s LGBT community —was presented to Penn State Berks staff member Karen Kihurani, State College community member Merrill Budlong, alumnus Don Smith, student Jenny Shipley and Penn State Dubois student Christina Lockwood.
When presented with the award, Shipley (senior-engineering) spoke of taking action.
“I did what I could with what I had,” she said.
Colin Mueller also took the microphone.
“I wear the team for what I play for,” Mueller (freshman-information sciences and technology) said, referring to his shirt that had “GAY” written across the front. “And the team that is closest to my heart.”
Mueller told the audience of the support that the LGBTA community provided for him and how the community became a second family to him.
Rally attendee Erica Pilgram said society is starting to accept being gay, and that the rally is a chance for people to celebrate the aspects that make them an individual.
“I hope [people who attend] become more comfortable with themselves,” Pilgram (senior-food science) said. “[Become] confident [that] opinions can change. We aren’t alone.”