Students gathered in the Student Union to celebrate the 1st annual Mills Pride on Feb. 27, an event featuring translatina activist Bamby Salcedo, as well as an interactive panel discussion open to students. Assistant Director at the Social Justice Resource Center and event organizer Alfredo Del Cid said that the event intended to create a supportive and welcoming environment for members of the LGBTQ2IA (Two-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual/Ally).
Mills Pride began with a keynote speech delivered by Bamby Salcedo, who has worked closely with the Obama Administration to create trans-inclusive policies and federal protection guidelines. The event included a screening of “Transvisible,” a short documentary tracing Salcedo’s journey, celebrating the transformative capacity of persistence in the face of systemic adversity and oppression. The documentary was followed by a panel discussion with Coordinator for Student Activities Sascha Brown, Assistant Professor of Government Andrew Flores, Head Swim Coach Neil Virtue and Assistant Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Ilana Barakat. The panel was moderated by Dean of Students Chicora Martin.
Martin asked the panelists to identify moments in which they felt particularly included or excluded from their communities.
“I did not feel fully represented at the Women’s March,” Brown said. Several members of the audience snapped their fingers in agreement. “My whole self was not represented. My gender is more complex than being a ‘woman.’ My fullness was not represented. Even though I felt surrounded by my people in Oakland, I was not represented in the language. I wish it had been a little more nuanced, but I know that we will get there one day.”
Professor Flores addressed the hierarchical politics of prioritizing versus displacing socially relevant issues. He spoke about the importance of finding a sense of inclusion in what we see represented in mainstream culture, arguing that we risk deepening a polarizing discourse and mentality if we “other” the mainstream.
“I am at odds and at connection with this movement,” Flores said. “I want to make sure that my ongoing efforts are informed by these discussions.”
According to Martin, throughout the past decade, 40 to 60 percent of Mills students have identified as “something other than straight.” This ratio is noteworthy, indicated Martin, compared with 12 percent in women’s colleges, and 9 percent nationally. As the hour closed, Martin asked the panel: “What does it mean to have a sense of pride at a place perceived to be inclusive? Why have events like these?”
“For me, Mills Pride is seeing the students here, filling the space with who they are, challenging the system and each other to grow and expand,” Virtue said. “Pride is a work in progress.”
Brown addressed the importance of having events like Mills Pride, especially on a campus renown for its inclusivity.
“For some of us, it is not pride every day,” Brown said. “It is important to acknowledge our identities. We need to be tied to our history and always see the progress we are making. We need to have these events to understand the privileges that we have within language — the word ‘queer’ is a revolutionary act — so we can always look at our history and look forward.”
The discussion was then opened up to students.
First year student Saly Entislia expressed the difficulty she had when she shared her story with a news source.
“I am a transgender student from New Mexico,” Entislia said. “I was asked to do an interview for a radio show. The interviewer avoided the parts of me getting harassed and attacked and bullied, portraying instead an idea that I was easily out and willing to share my story. Do you feel that one of the biggest issues is that although we are showing heroes, we are not showing the hard trials?”
Brown replied that mainstream culture simplifies the complexity of identity, which is why broadcasting our individual experience is crucial.” We have the power to get our stories out. Tell your story. Tell other people’s stories. The mainstream has never been aligned with queerness. That’s why we have queerness.”
Reflecting on the event, senior Samantha Morrow said that she liked how receptive the panelists were to all the various questions.
“This is an opportunity for people who relate to the people in that particular group to ask questions, and get feedback they may not have gotten. Not everyone has access to this kind of conversation,” Marrow said.
Del Cid was inspired by the turnout and enthusiasm of the Mills community.
“I think one thing that struck me was to see how many Mills staff showed up,” Del Cid said. “I just wanted our community to find something that resonated with them. I wanted to create visibility.”