Spectrum, the University’s affinity group for LGBTQ+ students of color, launched its third annual Pride Week celebration on Friday, Oct. 7, with events running through Sunday, Oct. 15. The week is co-sponsored by the Resource Center, Department of Feminist and Gender Studies (FGSS), Office for Equity and Inclusion, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and Center for the Arts.
Pride Week is intended to celebrate and discuss the meaning of being a queer student at Wesleyan. Spectrum President Maryam Badr ’25 highlighted that the goal of the week is to provide a space for queer individuals on campus, especially queer students of color, to come together and embrace their community.
“Wesleyan is accepting to the queer community, but the queer experience is a very specific experience that tends to tie to someone’s cultural, religious backgrounds, even their nationality,” Badr said. “So I think the strength of Pride Week is having a designated week of events that really focuses on the fact that the queer experience isn’t necessarily always a white, Christian context in America.”
The week kicked off with keynote speaker Amir Ashour, the founder of Iraq’s first and only LGBTQ+ organization, on Friday, Oct. 7 at Russell House, followed by the Body Painting and Appreciation Workshop on Monday, Oct. 10.
Pride Week will continue with a variety of other events, including the Family Trauma & Healing Circle at the Resource Center at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12; the Queer Sex & Sexual Health Workshop with Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness (ASHA) at the Resource Center at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13; and the Vogue Workshop at 160 Cross St. studio from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14. The week will wrap up with Art After Dark, a student of color open mic event, at the X House Lounge from 9 to 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, followed by the Gala at Russell House from 9 to 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Badr underscored that having a week of events dedicated to queer students on campus gives the programming more significance and attention, allowing departments to get directly involved and increasing awareness for the general student body. Spectrum was able to receive funding from the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Resource Center, and CAPS, as well as the FGSS, Dance, and African American Studies departments for this year’s Pride Week.
“Having a designated week where departments are aware it’s happening, where they can also support it and they can also come to the events, it holds more weight than maybe just doing a few events here and there,” Badr said. “And it kind of forces people on campus to be aware that this space exists, and just gives folks who want to be in that space more credibility for that space, and legitimacy.”
By keeping Pride Week events open to all students, Badr emphasized that the week aims to center queer students of color and their experiences while also serving as an open space for those still working through their identity.
“I think also it’s important to make space for people who are questioning or don’t like labels, so everyone is welcome,” Badr said. “We just do want to reiterate that this space is made for queer POCs.”
In the past, Spectrum’s Pride Week has been held in the spring semester. Spectrum’s Financial Manager Cece Hawley ’24 explained that the board decided to hold this year’s celebration in the fall to bring in first-year students in particular. The week now also coincides with National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, Oct. 11, along with the Pride Reception for LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, and students, which was held on Monday, Oct. 11.
“We just decided to put [Pride Week] in fall because we feel like that would better capture the [first years] who are on campus looking for those spaces right now,” Hawley said. “We think that spring kind of gets bogged down with other things—finals, wanting to go home—and so we thought that fall would be a better time to hold them.”
Although Spectrum changed the timing of Pride Week this year, much of the programming from previous years is the same, such as Body Painting, Family Trauma & Healing Circle, and the Gala.
“Our biggest thing was realizing that we wanted to do those events last year for a reason, so we just wanted to make them better,” Badr said. “For example, the body painting and appreciation workshop: It is the same event, but it’s also very different. We’re hoping to have it a lot more structured, and have actual discussions about what it means to appreciate our bodies and our self-image, and self-love. So yeah, it might be the same events, but I think for us it’s just from what we learned last year, how we can change them to make them better.”
Spectrum hopes that the variety of events can provide different ways to support the queer community on campus. Badr explained that some of the events are aimed at facilitating conversations between students about their experiences with queerness and their other identities.
“You don’t have to feel like you have to come into the space and share every detail of your life; you could just come and not say anything,” Badr said. “So we just wanna reiterate that these spaces exist, but they are what you make them and if you want to enter them and just be an observer, that’s totally okay too.”
Other events, like the Gala, are intended to be more fun and less discussion based, while still centering the queer students of color in attendance.
“I really wanna hold space for queer joy, like you can just be here and just exist,” Badr said. “We don’t have to talk about all the complexities of our identity. You can just look cute and listen to good music.”
Planning for Pride Week began in August, when the board began reaching out to individuals they wanted to be involved in the week and setting up reservations for events. Badr and Hawley both emphasized the role of the Resource Center—in particular Resource Center Director Demetrius Colvin and Assistant Director Kiara Ruesta-Cayetano—in helping the board organize the week.
Colvin explained that the Resource Center has been involved since the first Pride Week celebration in April 2021, when the idea for the first celebration was led by then Resource Center intern and Spectrum president Jose Pagan ’22. Since then, the Resource Center has continued to collaborate with Spectrum for each following Pride Week celebration.
“I think it’s that level of collaboration that really has helped this event happen three times in this course of just two years and keep on building upon the successes of the past one,” Colvin said.
For Colvin, Pride Week is important in offering more queer programming to the campus community, especially so that queerness on campus continues to have a dedicated space.
“Wesleyan is an interesting place where it’s like, ‘Yes we have queers everywhere, they’re in leadership, they’re over there, they’re under your bed, they’re everywhere,’ right?” Colvin said. “But also at the same time, there’s a way in which we become everywhere and so normalized that we also aren’t visible at all. And so it’s important to give and highlight and center queerness on campus, as well as to take up space really, more than anything else. It’s not even just to say, ‘Hey, look at me, we’re here,’ but it’s more so to say, ‘We deserve as much space as any other group of people here.’”
Even after the end of Pride Week this weekend, Spectrum’s leadership board will continue to provide a community for queer students of color, such as through the group’s collective meetings, which Hawley described as a low-commitment way to stay in touch with the University’s community of queer students of color. For those who want to be more directly involved with Spectrum, the board is still welcome to new members, and those interested can reach out to either Badr or Hawley via email to get involved.
“I think the biggest thing about being a board member that’s really cool is it really gives you the ability to control what type of events we have,” Badr said. “So in our board meetings you can say, ‘Hey, I feel like we don’t have enough of these voices being centered, how about we bring a speaker on campus that talks about this,’ or something. So if you are a bit more interested in planning the events and what type of events we have, I would definitely suggest joining the board.”
Hawley and Badr both reiterated that Spectrum’s board’s goal is to spotlight the distinct experiences of queer students of color at Wesleyan and centering them through a variety of different spaces throughout the week.
“The queer experience is different, but it’s especially different for people of color, and within that too,” Hawley said. “It’s just important that you are able to acknowledge that and highlight that.”
Jem Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cameron Bonnevie can be reached at email@example.com.