Sitting in the shade of the noisy quad, Frances Guzman reflected on her not so smooth coming out. Amidst the chaos of lunchtime pop music with bordering on painful sound to bass ratio, Guzman talked about coming from a childhood without LGBT+ representation, being raised in a Mexican family and learning how to navigate sexuality and gender identity largely on her own while also taking a leadership position.
A short but impactful ceremony, the 7th Annual Safe Zone Awards on May 21 left attendees dabbing their eyes. The ceremony, although assembled rather casually under the fluorescent lighting of the Circadian, played host to a number of tearful reflections on the daily struggles of undocumented and LGBTQI+ students and the work done by faculty to support them.
Students arrived to an arch of rainbow balloons, dimmed lighting with a disco ball of flashing colors, streamers twirled like the end of a pigtail as the music reduces the ability to hear clearly. The room heated up when students and guests arrived and as everyone moved to the beat of the bass.
When Pasadena City College student Leandro Orozco was contacted to join as a bassist for Mariachi Arcoíris, the first LGBTQ mariachi band in the world, he was hesitant. “A straight 24-year-old man from a traditional Mexican family, joining a gay mariachi band?” he thought to himself. He would soon realize it would change his life for the better.
A typical day on campus can include the sound of rhythmic salsa music as couples shake and shimmy their way through the quad in the afternoon sun;. a celebration of culture. In the same day, one could also catch a viewing of The Vagina Monologues, a production aimed at deconstructing and subverting traditional notions of gender.
Safe Zones strategized a plan to sell T-shirts in order to help Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students financially and prevent them from dropping out of school.
Far from the nightlife of disco balls, alcohol and loud music like one might have imagined for such an event, books and artwork could be seen as guests entered the gallery store to the main stage. Inside was a wooden catwalk, lightning, and a simple backstage were built up for the drag queen competition.
June. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and if things seem a little gayer than usual, that’s because it’s Pride Month.