During the month of June, people across the country and around the world honor and celebrate LGBTQ+ history while advocating for a better, more inclusive future. Recently, three University of Tulsa students took part in a Pride Month Q&A: Nevin Subramanian, a senior majoring in finance and music; Iyan Smith Willams, a sophomore studying mathematics and Spanish in the International Science and Language program; and Nathan Smith, a rising 3L who is president of the College of Law’s OutLaws student organization.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Subramanian – Pride Month means “freedom.” Pride Month enhances the rich and diverse community that showcases the acceptance of people to be free and to be who they are. It also exhibits the trailblazing leaders and fearless allies who have fought for our freedom to be accepted and loved.
Smith Williams – For me, while Pride is a time for celebration, it is also a time for learning and discussion. Last year was my first time participating in Tulsa Pride, and while I loved marching with my friends through downtown, the most impactful part of the whole experience was to hear from members of the LGBTQ+ community whose voices are not always heard — especially trans and queer people of color.
The modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights was sparked by activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Stormé DeLarverie, but I never saw people with their identities or their challenges showcased in popular media. Pride is a time to learn about and celebrate Black and other POC members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we should continue to think about these lessons and speak out against inequity after June 30.
Smith – Pride Month is a celebration of the anniversary of a pivotal event in our history and of the strides our nation has made in the pursuit of equality. The gay rights movement typically claims the Stonewall Riot, which happened June 28 to July 3, 1969, as the start of our push for equality. This month of celebration also coincides with the Supreme Court’s release of many major equality cases, such as Bostock and Obergefell.
Do you have any plans to celebrate Pride this month?
Subramanian – While I may not be able to celebrate Pride like before, as the department chair for diversity and educational programming our team is planning to celebrate it virtually. We took a different take into what Pride means this year. We will be telling the untold history within Pride, such as Mama Jose and the Imperial Court System, Stonewall Riots and many more. We wanted to pay homage to the stories that influence the rich culture within Pride.
Smith Williams – I am staying home with family, but I will probably be breaking out the food coloring soon to bake some rainbow-themed muffins and cookies.
Smith – Yes! With the current state of world and local affairs, many Pride celebrations and parades have been canceled. The COVID-19 pandemic and the atrocious killings that have recently made primetime news provided a double reason to postpone or cancel events. Pride Month, and for the foreseeable future, will focus on standing with LGBTQ+ people of color. No one is equal until we’re all equally protected by the law.
What do you enjoy most about celebrating pride at TU?
Subramanian – What I enjoy the most about celebrating Pride at TU is bringing everyone together. No matter what race, sexuality or gender you are, everyone can have the possibility of showcasing what Pride means to them. I love seeing a community where students, staff and administrators work together in showcasing their Pride in their own unique and diverse style.
Smith Williams – What I love most about celebrating Pride at TU is the number of people willing to learn about LGBTQ+ rights. During TU’s Pride Month in November, there was quite a bit of interest from students, faculty and staff about how to help LGBTQ+ folks feel more comfortable on campus. The fact that so many people were ready to ask questions and encourage friends to do the same was super inviting.
Smith – I haven’t attended any Pride celebrations at TU. However, Tulsa’s Pride festivities are top-notch, considering the opposition to LGBTQ+ equality by the state’s largely conservative population.
If there was one thing you could change or hope to change in Tulsa about the perception of the LGTBQ+ population, what would it be?
Subramanian – If there is one thing I hope to change about the perception of the LGBTQ+ population in Tulsa is that the LGBTQ+ community is just as normal like everyone else. I do believe that the LGBTQ+ community has much of a better fashion sense (I’m kidding), but other than that we’re nothing more than just humans. The LGBTQ+ community should not be stereotyped as “a gay best friend” or “an asset” to anyone.
Smith Williams – Growing up in Tulsa, a mindset I have run into quite a bit is the idea that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights ended in 2015 with the Marriage Equality Act. When we see this victory as the “high five, we’re done” end of the story, we blind ourselves to the fact that there is still plenty of work to be done. One such area of injustice is widespread violence against transgender and gender non-conforming folks, especially people of color like Tony McDade. His murder is, unfortunately, just one of many acts of aggression against trans folks around the U.S, and I encourage allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community alike to get educated and speak out. For more info, check out the website for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Smith – TU has been very fair to its LGBTQ+ population, even when other student organizations have invited speakers to the campus who openly campaign against us. However, like every member of a minority group, I do wish TU Law had a larger LGBTQ+ student base.