Kayli Walker and Kelsey Knorp
For its seventh year running, Pride Week at the University of California, Santa Barbara brought together students of all backgrounds in celebration of the campus’s diverse LGBT+ community, courtesy of the Associated Students Queer Commission. Events and activities ranging in scope from career workshops and mixers to live entertainment kicked off on Monday, April 4, and will conclude this evening.
Special guests, including actor Ian Harvie of Amazon’s Transparent and professional Britney Spears impersonator Derrick Barry, traveled to UCSB to participate — the former in an open-mic comedy night last Wednesday, and the latter in Thursday’s much-anticipated student drag show. Tonight’s career mixer at the Student Resource Building, hosted by UCSB Career Services and the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, will allow LGBT+ students to network with inclusive employers offering opportunities for both internships and full-time jobs.
Six preparatory workshops on April 5 and 7 have preceded the event, which is sponsored by global security giant Northrop Grunman and will include representatives from diverse big-name entities like Yelp, Microsoft, the Peace Corps and Teach For America. Local experts and professionals covered topics such as LGBT+ employment rights, equal-opportunity employment and general networking etiquette.
This is the first year Career Services has collaborated with Pride Week organizers to incorporate “queer-oriented activities,” according to Emanuel Jimenez, co-chair of Queer Commission (QComm). These events were designed to enhance networking skills through interaction with the queer- and trans-friendly professionals invited to participate.
Among other popular new events was last Tuesday’s vogue workshop featuring dance music duo Purple Crush, who led attendees in the stylized form of house dance evolved from ballroom dancing in 1980s Harlem, New York. The special guests also led a catwalk workshop and hosted a “vogue ball” that evening.
Members of QComm agreed that Pride Week turnout has improved from previous years due to the greater variety of activities and safe spaces for expression offered. Overall, they have received positive feedback from students on the changes.
“[It was] fleshed out more, incorporating a career fair, dancing, media, art and other activities that do not appear in our heteronormal world or perceptions of the queer community in mainstream media,” said co-chair Ricardo Duarte.
This year’s events appeared to have impacts beyond the UCSB student population as well. One non-student who identifies as a transgender woman sought out Pride Week having just moved to the Santa Barbara area, looking to see what types of events occur and contribute her own talents. At Wednesday’s open mic night, she sang a song titled “The Beautiful Strength of Trans Women,” and was met with considerable applause.
After the event she told The Bottom Line she believes that events like Pride Week are important to the community to keep any part of it from feeling isolated. She described Wednesday’s audience as “open,” adding, “It is beautiful.”
Harvie put Pride Week’s mantra in equally simple terms in his message to the crowd. “The only thing you have to do is say who you are,” he said.