Power through Pride: LGBTQ students find confidence at Pride events

LGBTQ students, such as sophomores Nyah Ernst (left) and Devin Morgan, reflect on past judgments and embrace who they are at the St. Petersburg Pride parade. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Love and support filled the air as thousands of members of the LGBTQ community danced on top of floats and celebrated themselves and others during the St. Petersburg Pride Parade.

“I was in awe above all else,” sophomore communications major Devin Morgan said. “Everyone is coexisting and supporting each other in a way that’s different from everyday life. Random people were quick to compliment, and there was no judgment of clothing, orientation or action. I felt safe and free.”

As a member of the LGBTQ community, Morgan said she used to be told “‘there’s no way you’re gay” and was surrounded by people who made insensitive jokes to mask homophobic comments.

Removing herself from those uncomfortable situations, Morgan acknowledges that what she feels inside is most important. The parade was her first pride event and she said she doesn’t plan on missing pride celebrations another year.

Nyah Ernst, sophomore integrated public relations and advertising major, also attended the event and appreciated the inclusiveness compared to certain environments in their life.

“I felt so filled with love and happiness to see people like me all around me for a day,” Ernst said. “I felt so happy I cried when people came up to me telling me they liked my makeup or my outfit or gave me hugs and bracelets. I really have never in my life felt more acceptance.”

While many people were there celebrating, Ernst said some were not there to join the inclusive festivities. They noticed people protesting the parade and even shouting at them and their friends as they walked back to their car.

“Why did we have to feel scrutinized just for walking down the street after one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had?” Ernst said.

Regardless of the negativity directed at the crowds, many people joked about the situation so as to not give the hateful people attention, according to Ernst.

The main issue Ernst said they have faced in life is a lack of acceptance from people at home who refuse to try to understand someone different from them.

“Unfortunately, with being a part of the LGBTQ community, there will be issues with every aspect of us just living,” Ernest said.

However, Ernst has been able to connect with more members of the LGBTQ community while in college by finding people with similar experiences.

“All of the friends I’ve made at USF are a part of the community as well,” they said. “So for us to share our success, our issues and love with one another it helps us overcome the hardships we’ve faced previously.”

Some students looked forward to going to college due to the bullying and harassment they faced in high school for being part of the LGBTQ community. As a newly out freshman in high school, junior environmental sciences and policy major Abigail Reed became involved with the Gender-Sexuality Alliance at her school.

“I had to speak out for not only myself, but all the members of that club, so I became an outspoken activist,” Reed said. “I wasn’t scared to call people out for their homophobia and this is what ultimately stopped the harassment, at least to my face, because I was confident and I could stand up for myself.”

Reed found an accepting community in the Stonewall Suites LLC as a freshman at USF and joined many LGBTQ student organizations.

Sophomore American Sign Language interpreting major Benjamin Brosofsky said the opportunity to meet a diverse number of people at the university helped to make him more comfortable with his surroundings.

“I’ve gotten the opportunity to surround myself with friends all across the LGBTQ spectrum of identities, which wasn’t entirely possible when compared to the small, conservative town I grew up in,” Brosofsky said.

Brosofsky said he enjoys pride events hosted by the school because he feels he can embrace who he is and not be judged for it. As a transgender man, he values his peers’ support of him through respecting his pronouns and not bothering him with an extensive amount of questions.

During the parade on Saturday, Morgan appreciated that she could be herself and not have invasive questions constantly being asked.

“I was free of questions like what my type was, or if I’ve kissed a girl. It was just viewed as normal and I didn’t feel like I was out on display,” Morgan said.

Celebrating visibility and accepting one’s authentic self is what Pride Month is about, according to Brosofsky. It allows for those in the community to see people similar to them and express themselves comfortably.

“Pride Month is a time to be openly and unashamedly you,” Brosofsky said. “It’s a time to love and cherish the lives of those who have so often felt hopeless and beaten down by the world around them just for who they love, or who they are.”