by Hannah Langley ’21
From April 19 to April 23, the Board of Programmers and SHEPARD—Stopping Homophobia, Eliminating Prejudice and Restoring Dignity—is hosting events to celebrate and educate Providence College about the LGBTQ+ community.
The week included several events, beginning with a Schitt’s Creek watch party and discussion on Monday, followed by “How to Be a Better Ally” on Tuesday, “Tell Your Story” on Wednesday, and a health and wellness panel tonight. There will also be an event, “PEACES of Me Paint Night” held tomorrow, April 23.
Joshua Flynn ’22, a social work major and member of BOP, talked about how organizing this week in conjunction with Lucia Gonzales-Solis ’22, a member of SHEPARD’s executive board, meant a lot to him. “Being on BOP comes with a large amount of privilege because I can plan events the way that I want to impact the PC community,” said Flynn. He continued, “As a gay man myself, I knew it was important for me to plan events that have LGBTQ themes and ideas so that the PC community can come to hopefully learn and have fun at these events.”
Flynn explained the purpose behind each of the events planned for the week, beginning with their decision for a Schitt’s Creek watch party. The show, he says, “is an incredibly LGBTQ positive show that depicts a world without homophobia and uses comedy to talk about heavy themes. It’s a critically acclaimed show and we wanted to talk about its impact that it has had in the world.”
Tuesday’s event, “How to Be a Better Ally,” was an event run by SHEPARD for PC students to learn more about homophobia, how to use correct pronouns and phrasing, and how straight people can support the LGBTQ+ community.
“Tell Your Story” gave PC students the opportunity to speak about their own experiences with homophobia in a safe space. The health and wellness panel will bring in PC professors and administration to speak about “healthy relationships, mental health, and have a sex-positive discussion about romantic relationships,” explained Flynn. The panel will include Erin Corry, LGBTQ+ resource advisor; Dr. Jonathan Dator from the personal counseling center; Dr. Katherine Kranz, interim dean of the school of professional studies; Dr. Abigail Brooks, director of the women’s and gender studies program; Dr. Maia Bailey, professor of biology; and Dr. Jessica Mulligan, professor of health policy and management.
Friday’s event, “PEACES of Me Paint Night,” will be hosted by Kyia Watkins, owner of At Peace Arts, a mobile paint party company. Flynn explained that Watkins will “guide [attendees] through a paint night that is focused on [their] individual identities and celebrating that.”
Although the events of this week are unique to this year’s celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, BOP and SHEPARD have been doing a week-long event like this since 2018. There has been some controversy, however, over the name of the event in the past. Gonzales-Solis explained how in 2018, when this week was first organized and celebrated, BOP and SHEPARD attempted to call the series “PC Proud.” The title, however, has since been unallowed by PC administration. The argument is that the administration believes the name is tied too closely to the “Pride movement,” and, according to administration, the College cannot support this movement.
Since this information has been made public, many members of the PC community have spoken out, saying it is unjust, as the College uses the word “pride” in much of their campaigning for other events, fundraising, and more. Students have begun a #PCShouldBePROUD movement on Instagram, reposting a graphic detailing their frustrations on their Instagram stories to speak out.
“Personally, I think it is disheartening to see PC censor and invalidate the identity of members of the so-called ‘Friar Family,’” said Gonzales-Solis. She continued, “As a member of the SHEPARD exec board, it oftentimes feels [like] we are walking on eggshells continuously as we attempt to organize inclusive events for the PC community. It is saddening that with every step forward we take towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, we are forced to take two steps backward by our administration.”
Although there is backlash from the PC community about the inability for BOP and SHEPARD to use the title “PC Proud,” Flynn talked about how he still wants the week to run successfully. “I want to make this week the best week that it can be,” he said. “I want people from all different backgrounds to be able to come to the event and take something away from it. The events are personal and educational and can offer something to anyone.”