For the global LGBTQ community, June has become synonymous with Pride.
But at Rutgers–New Brunswick, the celebration starts early with GAYpril.
Launched by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (SJE) in the Division of Student Affairs, GAYpril offers an opportunity for queer and trans students to celebrate their identities together on campus before going home for the summer.
“There are many circumstances, situations, and systems of oppression and exclusion that we navigate daily in our queer and trans identities,” said Keywuan Caulk, director of SJE. “The significance of GAYpril is to affirm our place on this campus and this world. It’s important to affirm, lift, and eventually heal and love our community.”
This GAYpril, the SJE will host and highlight events designed to involve attendees in educational and celebratory programming on queer and trans communities and issues.
There are more than 10 topical events planned by SJE and departments around campus in honor of GAYpril, including a Queer Prom on April 27, a Safer Space Training on April 29, and the 24th annual Rainbow Graduation on May 4.
“I think GAYpril is extremely important because of the visibility that it gives the community here,” said Jennifer Buritica-Lopez, a junior who works as an office manager at SJE and is involved with planning Queer Prom. “While SJE is loud, proud, and visible, many people don’t know about it or don’t use our resources, so GAYpril is a great way to offer space for community for many participants who aren’t involved in a club or SJE itself.”
Rutgers–New Brunswick has a long history of LGBT activism. The first LGBT student organization at Rutgers was founded in 1969 by Lionel Cuffie, a Black, openly gay sophomore, and SJE was founded in 1992 by Cheryl Clarke.
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of SJE, as well as the 50+ years of LGBT organizations on campus, the SJE is planning a wrap ad for one of the campus buses. The bus will feature an inclusive flag inspired by the 2017 Philly Pride flag, the slogan “Rutgers Rides with Pride,” and a link to SJE’s website.
SJE’s assistant director of programming, Lindsay Jeffers, emphasized the flag choice.
“It’s important to note that the Philly Pride flag on the bus includes a brown and a black stripe,” she said. “First of all, this acknowledges the contributions of communities of color to the queer and trans community, and, second, it speaks to the ongoing struggle for racial justice within the queer and trans community.”
Caulk hopes that the bus will elevate the presence of SJE, show the value of queer and trans identities, and attract potential students to Rutgers.
“This bus has been a long-time dream of mine for the Rutgers–New Brunswick campus,” he said. “I just hope it shows folks who are here and who might choose to come here that they and their identities are welcome.”
The SJE Pride bus is set to be unveiled in an on-campus event during the LGBTQIA+ Welcome Week at the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester. A full list of GAYpril’s events is available on the SJE website.