RockOUT kicked off Pride Week with their annual Candlelit Vigil Monday in the SRSGA Pavilion to honor those in the LGBTQ community who have lost their lives to homophobic and transphobic violence.
The club officers covered the tables in the pavilion with a variety of Pride flags and gave each participant a candle for the ceremony. President of RockOUT Frankie Walker went around lighting each individuals candle and the group formed into a half circle while Walker gave a speech.
He called for a moment of silence before talking about the importance of remembering and celebrating members of the LGBTQ community who have lost their lives and paved the way for them.
SRU has made large steps in recent years towards steps for inclusion, specifically for the LGBTQ community. Walker mentioned a recent club, TRANSaction, to be a newer organization that has been making an impact, along with RockOUT and President’s Commission for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation (GIESO).
But members of the LGBTQ community on campus continue to experience hate speech. Walker recalled an experience at The Ivy where he heard someone call him a homophobic slur.
Miriam Syed, treasurer of RockOUT, talks about the differences in Slippery Rock during the academic semester versus during the summer, when the town isn’t full of students.
“I live in Slippery Rock in the summers so it becomes very dead and filled with people who just live in town,” Syed said. “It’s a much more conservative town, which is strange because our school is very liberal.”
Vice President of RockOUT Olivia Kerstetter also had a negative experience while out in the community during the summer months.
“I also lived here during the summer, and it’s nothing major, but I was in the Dunkin’ line and this old man looked at me and said ‘You’re a waste,'” Kerstetter said.
RockOUT continues to recognize how the LGBTQ community faces the most hate in Slippery Rock during the summer, and they are thankful for the steps they’ve made at the university towards being more inclusive.
Pride Week included many events to celebrate the community, including the Arts Fest, Queer Bingo, Acceptance Day and the Drag Show, which is a fan favorite on campus.
Walker talked about the changes in the LGBTQ community at SRU. As a senior, he has seen a shift over the past four years.
“It’s definitely less taboo. I don’t have to explain myself to as many people as I used to, especially just seeing someone on campus,” Walker said. “They don’t ask questions anymore and that’s actually a really good step in the right direction because I used to have to explain myself and defend my sexuality, and that’s less of the case.”
Similar to many other clubs and organizations, the period of being online had caused some challenges with participation. With this semester being in person, RockOUT is finally able to host their events and have people attend.
“It’s just so heart-warming to be back doing this stuff in person,” Walker said.