Organizations that provide safe zones for people to freely express themselves are crucial to those that may be struggling with aspects of their identity, or just do not feel comfortable being themselves in certain spaces.
The PRIDE Center, on the first floor of the University Union at Sacramento State, is a place that offers an “environment that is open, safe, and supportive of student diversity in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression,” according to their mission statement.
The center’s first event of the spring 2015 semester, the Insta-Queer Mixer, offered a social media-themed space with food, pictures and games.
The event also included a safe space that allowed for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, and same-gender-loving people and allies, to become a part of a community where equality, justice and respect are inherent.
The Insta-Queer event was put on simply to introduce new faces to deep-rooted ones.
“Its purpose is for [people] to meet other folks and interact with them,” said Yosa Guerrero, a student assistant for the PRIDE Center.
Program Coordinator Chris Kent said the PRIDE Center is important because it gives students who may feel alone or marginalized in social circles a place they can actively be involved in and will be accepted as a person no matter what.
Alonzo Sharp, a PRIDE Center patron, said if the center wasn’t here, more LGBTQ people would feel alone.
Feeling alone can be detrimental to someone’s mental health, especially when someone feels alone due to thinking something may be wrong with them, not to mention social stigmas that come from being different than the “norm.”
Being different is often a cause for bullying, in turn causing young people to hurt themselves or worse. The mixer was an opportunity to counteract cyberbullying and show people of all ages there is pride and beauty in the person they see in the mirror.
“I think cyberbullying and bullying in general is a reflection of [the bully]. Don’t take anything personally,” said Sharp. “Bullying is a cop-out… because people fear what they don’t understand.”
Understanding is the key concept for places like the PRIDE Center.
Understanding someone’s personal struggle instead of attacking them for it is a tool everyone should be using.
The Insta-Queer Mixer allowed people of all genders, races, sizes, and sexual orientation to be accepted for who they are and not what strangers assume.
“If someone has low self-esteem or has been bullied or feels uncomfortable in their skin, this is a good way to begin to build that self-confidence,” said Sharp.
It is not easy to understand and conceptualize the personal struggles of others but trying to, at least, is a step in the right direction.
“Do not take bullying to heart,” said Sharp. “Be who you are and just live life.”