Pride Center welcomes all students

Monica Velez

Walking into the gender-neutral bathroom at Sacramento State, located in the PRIDE Center in the University Union, can be an unexpected experience. No other mirror will ever present itself as clear as the one above that particular sink.

“Warning! Reflection in this mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of who you should be,” reads the sign on the mirror.

The PRIDE Center used to be a program part of the Women’s Resource Center and in 2006 became recognized as its own program with a separate budget. The three main areas they contribute to on campus are student panels, events and safe zone training.

Safe zone training is aimed at creating safe spaces on campus through people, organizations and departments. The trainings are two and a half-hours and cover topics like marginalization and how to support students.

Classroom panels give students and faculty the opportunity to listen to LGBTQIA experiences in a safe and open environment, giving audience members the opportunity to ask questions to the panelists. To be a panelist requires training, and every panel has at least one PRIDE member acting as a facilitator and a participant.

The PRIDE Center is also able to help students with personal problems and connect them to resources they need on campus.

“We say that we obviously serve LGTBQIA students on campus, I think it’s important for those folks to know that there’s a space on campus,” said Chris Kent, program coordinator of the PRIDE Center. “Maybe folks never even use it, but just knowing that there’s a place is important, and then of course it’s important for the folks that do use it whether that’s spending their time here, reach[ing] out for resources and all that good stuff.”

The center provides an endless amount of books to read, and students are welcome to borrow them, with hope that every student brings them back. For students who need a safe space to go to or somewhere to spend an hour, the PRIDE Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“What the Pride Center brings to the community of students is a serene place for them to be there, to have discussions, eat comfortably, know that they’re not going to have to hide their identity and anything within those lines, being comfortable to be expressive,” said Sac State student Zobeida Mendez.

A misconception of the PRIDE center is that it is only for the LGBTQIA community, when in reality all students are more than welcome to go in and just hang out and check out what they have to offer.

“The center is able to connect them with other folks on campus, but then there’s indirect ways, you know I think even just being in the center, eating lunch here, having a place you can go and feel comfortable and safe or attending programs, stuff like that,” said Kent. “That’s kind of an indirect way of supporting the students.”

Fourth year Sac State student Denise Santos went to the PRIDE Center for the first time when she was a freshman. Santos used the center to hear about events on campus and get pamphlets and information. She said she was excited to know that there was a place like the PRIDE Center on campus.

“Being a first year in college everywhere felt intimidating but with the PRIDE Center there was never a time that I wanted to run away,” said Santos. “It was pleasant and everyone who was there was polite and helped you with anything you needed.”

The PRIDE Center is also a place where students struggling with gender identity or any issues they find hard to talk about, can go to for support and open-minded discussions. Mendez said she personally identifies with the PRIDE Center because she is an ally for the LGBTQIA community. She said meeting people that share all her same ideologies is what tied her to the center.

“The biggest benefit [of the PRIDE Center] definitely has been coming in contact with passionate people, strong people, strong-minded people who aren’t afraid to be who they want to be,” said Mendez.

For more information about the PRIDE Center students can attend the events they’re holding and stop by to check out the gender-neutral bathroom, or just hang out and converse. April 13-25 is pride week at Sac State and the theme this year is celebrating the diversity of queer communities.

“For students that don’t identify as LGBTQ or don’t identify as allies, just check out these centers, you’ll meet dope people, you’ll meet different people and I think no matter how anyone wants to identify the fact that you are willing to just meet people is already a big statement for yourself,” said Mendez.