Fresno State raised the pride flag for the first time in school history on Wednesday, June 9.
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, today I feel safer at Fresno State. I feel my voice is heard. I feel visible,” Estevan Guerrero, coordinator for Gender Programs and Services and LGBTQ+ Programs and Services, said.
The raising of the pride flag comes as what Guerrero described as a symbol of hope to many members of the LGBTQ+ community at Fresno State.
“In 2018, over 130 anti LGBTQ bills were introduced in 30 states in this country. Research indicates that one in 10 people identify as LGBTQ+. We have over 25,000 students on this campus. With this notion, we have about 2,500 students who self identify as LGBTQ+,” Guerrero said.
He emphasized that raising the pride flag on campus symbolized steps toward inclusivity and efforts to make the university a welcoming space.
The event was unanimously approved by the University Cabinet, ASI and Senate Executive Committee and began at 12:30 p.m. featuring speakers who detailed the significance of the occasion.
Associated Students Inc. (ASI) President D’Aungillique Jackson spoke at the event and said that she is the first openly LGBTQ+ student body president.
She noted that there have been others in her position who were also members of the community but feared that outing themselves would be faced with backlash and removal from office. Jackson said she understood the struggles growing up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I remember being a little girl and hearing conversations that went along the lines of: ‘That’s fine, as long as it’s not in my house. That’s fine … as long as it’s not around me,’ ” Jackson said. “And I stand here today, proud and open in the colors that represent me and what I stand for — a piece of my identity.”
With Jackson’s upcoming term as ASI president, she said the raising of the rainbow flag is only the beginning of her efforts to improve inclusivity at Fresno State.
“Being a student who is LGBTQIA+, and being somebody who’s Black on campus, I feel that there’s a space that’s lacking for students who look like me,” Jackson said. “I feel that for our lesbian student body, our transgender student body … our groups that are commonly unprotected within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, I want to make sure that they feel seen and they feel valued in connection with all of their intersectionality. So that’s kind of my goal.”
Another featured speaker was Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, who said that many today do not understand the significance behind raising a pride flag at government facilities. He even admitted he also did not understand at one point, but after hearing of the hardships faced by many members of the LGBTQ+ community, he came to understand its importance.
“I heard the stories, I heard the experiences of folks in the LGBTQ community who had felt excluded, unappreciated, unsupported, unloved, excluded by family members, excluded by their friends — or at least friends walking away from them, and even, unfortunately, excluded by our church or not feeling welcomed there,” Dyer said. “And all of that, quite frankly, breaks my heart. And so today I get it. I understand. It’s a big deal … I want you to know that I stand here in support as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Fresno State President Saúl Jimenéz-Sandoval spoke at the event to highlight the importance of recognizing the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to Fresno State and surrounding regions.
He thanked them for their efforts at the university and recognized the hardships experienced by many who identify as LGBTQ+ throughout history in seeking acceptance and understanding.
“Today, Fresno State stands in solidarity with you and says the following: You are an integral part of our community. We see you. We acknowledge your profound contributions. We value you, we celebrate you, not just in one month but throughout the entire year from now on,” Jimenéz-Sandoval said.
Mitzi Lowe, interim assistant dean of the College of Health and Human Services and faculty in the Department of Social Work Education, attended the ceremony and said the raising of a rainbow pride flag was “a long time coming.”
“I’ve been faculty here for 23 years and this is the first time the flag has been raised. So it’s just a really proud day,” Lowe said.
The celebration also featured speakers John Beynon, English professor and president of the LGBT+ Allies Network, and Kate Spencer, president of the Fresno State Rainbow Alumni and Allies Club.
The rainbow flag is currently located at the flagpole south of the Thomas Building and will remain raised throughout June.