Through alliance, faculty, staff find Pride in each other

The Brandeis University Faculty Staff Pride Alliance offers support for LGBTQIA+ coworkers and students across the university

rainbow flags being carried aloft past a building

June, which is recognized internationally as Pride Month for the LGBTQIA+ community, falls at a quiet time at Brandeis, with the academic year having concluded in May and far fewer students living on campus. But summer is a time of preparation for the year ahead for faculty and staff, and the Brandeis Faculty and Staff Pride Alliance continues to meet throughout the break. About 30 faculty and staff members are currently involved with the Pride Alliance; the alliance meets periodically for lunch and a new leadership group plans to look more closely at university policies and how they impact LGBTQIA+ employees. New members are always welcome and can sign up for the group’s listerv to learn about upcoming events.

Kaitlyn Rogers, the newly-elected chair of the group, along with members Katy McLaughlin and Eric Dunn, spoke with BrandeisNOW about what Pride means to them and how they’d like to support students.

Kaitlyn Rogers, accessibility specialist and chair of the Brandeis Pride Alliance, in a yellow sweater
Photo/Julie Jette

Kaitlyn Rogers

Kaitlyn Rogers

Accessibility specialist for undergraduate students in student accessibility support; chair of the Brandeis Faculty and Staff Pride Alliance

In my family, I had the privilege to have the space to be whoever I want to be, so the idea of needing Pride to feel safe and a sense of community is something a little bit new to me. It was only when I went to college that I had the realization my reality within my family was not the same for everyone else.

Seeing individuals who were and are having serious varying issues with their families, along with issues within themselves, possibly their religion, and more was, and is, heart wrenching. This is all while not even mentioning being able to come to terms with themselves in being their authentic selves.  When my peers were not feeling that it’s perfectly acceptable to be who they are and that there’s nothing wrong with them – that was when I started to understand Pride.

Pride is a feeling of acceptance and the ability to be acknowledged as an equal member of society to others and within. It means you don’t need to be counseled out of your identity, you don’t need to be talked out of “this phase in your life,” and it is to show that it’s more than okay and it’s perfectly fine to be who you are and love who you love. Pride is a safe space for individuals to be their authentic selves. I feel like people need to have a place to genuinely be happy and genuinely feel like they don’t need to look over their shoulder when they’re talking about their partners, talking about how they feel.  

When I started this new role as an accessibility specialist at Brandeis, I was also starting to come to terms with my own ideas and my own identities. Being able to be part of the Brandeis Faculty Staff Pride Alliance group, it was a great space for me to go to. It wasn’t ‘just’ a lecture or ‘just’ lunch or ‘just’ meeting new people, it was a space where I could have conversations. At one point someone in the group asked, “Oh, what are your plans for break” and I felt safe to say, “Oh, I’m meeting my partner’s family for the first time, and it’s also the first time I’m meeting a partner of the same sex’s family.” The Faculty Staff Pride Alliance sat and talked with me for an hour about what that looks like and their experience. I saw them a month later and they made a point to ask me how it went. It was something I had never experienced before, and it was just so great. When the opportunity came up to run for the chair position, I want to make that space for other people, and I want this group to open doors. I want more people to have the same experience I had, a feeling that this is one of the first places I could feel like, "Wow, there’s a group of people here that I work with, share common spaces with, email with and talk with all the time who are also feeling the same way I am.”

Staff member Eric Dunn in a white and blue gingham shirt
Photo/Julie Jette

Eric Dunn

Eric Dunn
Event logistics manager in conference and events services

When I think of Pride a few things come to mind; being open and genuine with your feelings, as well as what your interests and activities are. This may be found in your day to day responsibilities as well as your after-work activities. Through these experiences I believe that a particular bond is created with other members of the community. There is a way that the GLBTQ folks associate on this level. My goal, as part of being in the Pride Alliance Group here at Brandeis, is to connect with other folks on a professional level to better accomplish the day to day work, and strengthen the bond through sharing our experiences. I also want others to know that I have an open door and am available for other members of the faculty, staff and student population to reach out to me for support. We all have a different story, and it is helpful to learn about each other’s experiences in order to better know ourselves. I am confident that I will be a great resource for the community as this area is not readily available here on campus.

Katy McLaughlin, academic services, standing in front of a brick wall
Photo courtesy of Katy McLaughlin

Katy McLaughlin

Katy McLaughlin
Senior academic advisor, academic services

What Pride means to me is a sense of authenticity in living a life that’s true to who you are, despite any external pressure to be a different version of yourself. My participation in the Brandeis Faculty Staff Pride Alliance is a result of being proud of who I am as a queer woman, which didn’t come overnight. Having out friends and mentors has helped to shape who I am today, and I hope to give back to the LGBTQIA+ community by supporting faculty and staff on campus who are still on the path to developing and embodying the most joyful and authentic versions of themselves. That’s why the Pride Alliance is important to me; it’s not just about connecting with faculty and staff for social purposes, though that is a component of the group, as well! I also hope to leverage my involvement with this group to support students as they’re navigating their identity and figuring out what’s most salient to who they are becoming as people. I understand that not every member of the LGBTQIA+ community is in a position to be out, but I hope to be able to encourage those who have been shamed, or intimidated, or discouraged from being who they are that being LGBTQ+ is beautiful, and that there is support for you among faculty, staff, and students.

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