Students Envision Pride on Campus, Plan Pride Prom

This year marks the first-ever summer semester, making this the first Pride Month with a substantial number of students on campus. The Program Board hopes to host the first large-scale event of the season: Pride Prom. 

“It was brought up as an all-inclusive prom but we’re calling it Pride Prom,” said Ella Halbert, second-year College student and chair of the Program Board. “[It’s] a formal event, so people can come and dress up. We thought that could be a good event for pride month because at a lot of people’s high schools it might have been really exclusive of people in the LGBTQ+ community coming in couples.” 

According to Halbert, Pride Prom is tentatively set for Friday, June 25. Though she stresses that without a specific venue in mind the event will be hard to pull together on such short notice, Halbert remains optimistic that it will indeed take place before the end of Pride month. 

While Oberlin’s campus is known for having a substantive LGBTQ+ community, students have varied relationships to the idea of Pride celebrations.

Ryan Beatty, a rising College second-year, says their perception of Pride as a college student is different from the youthful optimism that brought them to Boston Pride for their first time in highschool. 

“I’ve become — not disillusioned — but I suppose I’ve started to see Pride in a more ‘eh’ kind of light,” they said. “The biggest thing for me is ‘rainbow capitalism.’ When I went to that Pride celebration, half the time there were these tents of big corporations handing out really cheap merch.” 

Rising College second-year Tseli Mathebula said their excitement for large Pride events, like Pride parades, has also dwindled over the years. 

“When I was young I wanted to have a stronger queer community, but wasn’t in a place where I could do so safely, and so I built a lot of excitement for Pride events and chances to build that community,” they wrote in an email to the Review. “I learned that the concept of Pride, at least how I experienced it in Los Angeles, wasn’t going to be that community for me. I found more of what I was searching for — support and opportunities to support others — through my friendships and more action-based groups than the L.A. parade events.” 

Beatty has gravitated away from mainstream Pride celebrations, finding the community they were looking for in more intimate environments. They recalled a smaller Pride celebration that emphasized safe sex rather than chincey products.

“They had a bunch of these folding tables they set up … a lot of them had free condoms, free dental dams, pamphlets about where you could go to get tested for STDs,” Beatty said. “A huge part of what Pride could — or should — be is helping people who are still discovering their sexuality or their gender to make sure they’re safe.” 

An Oberlin-specific event within the campus community could serve to alleviate a lot of these problems.

“I’d be more willing to go to Pride events at Oberlin, both because I know it’s a place where I’m way less likely to feel unsafe than I would in my hometown,” Beatty said. “And I also have friends at Oberlin who are like five minutes away who I can be like ‘Hey wanna go to this Pride event?’” 

Mathebula hopes to see Obies hosting Pride events that reach beyond celebration.  

“I would participate in fundraising events/mutual aid for queer people, events that give queer artists more platforms, etc.,” they wrote.

Despite hopeful theorization, some students have found summer semester on campus a barren time for Pride celebrations. With half of Pride month already over our shoulders, Beatty hopes to see students take the wheel in driving June to a more enlivened end.

“I assume there are student organizations for queer people, who normally organize those events,” they said. “It should generally be student-led if possible … that just feels more right.” 

Halbert said that she and other members have noticed the deficit of queer events.

“Program Board exists to put on programming that isn’t put on by other groups,” she said. “Some of us on the board were feeling like there weren’t any events, so maybe we could step up.” 

Halbert says the Program Board aims to create an environment that mirrors the joyful feeling she associates with Pride. They want everyone, in all walks of identity, to feel welcomed in the celebration.

 “You don’t have to have your identity figured out to celebrate pride. I think it’s important to still let everyone participate,” she said, adding that she hopes the event will be, “something that would welcome all of the students regardless of whether they identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community — that would be great.”