The mission of the Eastman School of Music’s Pride Network is to “foster a sense of openness and security in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, and allied members of the Eastman Community can discuss the issues associated with their lifestyles.”

Eastman’s Pride Network is primarily a social organization that enables students to take comfort in the fact that there are others going through the same situation, and who support their lifestyle.

Pride Network has undergone some changes recently, brought about by the newly-elected president and freshman Antonio Haynes. Haynes is treating this year as one of reorganization and promotion for Pride Network and he aims to increase Eastman’s awareness of Pride Network.

This year, Pride Network has held several social events. After the first week of classes, Pride Network sponsored an “Absolutely Fabulous” Night. They held a movie night for National Coming Out Day and also co-sponsored the Winter Ball with the Eastman Students’ Association.

April is Gay Pride month – which has been dubbed “Gaypril” by the gay community nationwide – and with it comes an increase in events sponsored by Pride Network. The events commence next Friday, April 4 at 9 p.m. with a pizza and movie night, followed by a drag show at Mother’s.

Pride Network has declared April 7 a day of awareness and unification. An information table, manned by a drag queen, will be set up in the main hall of Eastman. The goal of the information table is to provide Eastman students with informative literature on homosexuality, which will hopefully dispel some common myths and misperceptions.

Rainbow stickers will also be distributed for both members of the gay community and their allies to show their support.

The final event will be an off-campus movie night, held on April 26, which will be followed by a trip to the gay nightclub, Tilt. This date was chosen because it is the last night that the club will be open in its current location. Tilt is expected to reopen in a different location in the future, but the location has yet to be determined.

The River Campus Pride Network is also holding several events in honor of Gay Pride Month, including parties, films, a “Day of Solidarity,” a “Day of Silence” and a “Divas Live” drag show.

Signs advertising Pride Network meetings and events have been placed prominently around the school. Efforts have also been made to increase awareness among the administration, especially by keeping Assistant Dean of Student Life at Eastman Sigrid Long informed of their events.

Long feels that interaction between the administration and student groups such as Pride Network is important in maintaining organization within the groups and helping student groups increase their longevity.

“Students here are sometimes too busy to meet regularly,” Long said. “Plus the turnover in each group changes [approximately] every four years, and utilizing administrators and advisers who have been around for longer helps provide stability and insight into history as well as assisting with new ideas.”

Pride Network has also used the Office of Academic Affairs as a way to send Pride Network updates to faculty and has been pleased with the response that they have received, especially from faculty wanting to know more or show their support for the organization – a critical part of Pride Network’s success.

In addition to making Pride Network more prominent at Eastman, members are working to increase interaction between the River Campus and Eastman Pride Networks.

The River Campus Pride Network meets Tuesday nights and, although the River Campus Pride Network meetings are open to all students, Eastman students rarely attend them. Hopefully, eventual joint meetings will serve as another way to unite the two campuses.

Next year, however, Pride Network is planning to have one meeting a month at Eastman.

Membership in Eastman’s Pride Network has increased since the beginning of the year. Interested students are welcome to attend any Pride Network function. There is no official membership and the meetings and social events are informal. All activities are open to all students and students are encouraged to get involved. In fact, many members feel that having straight allies is an integral aspect of Pride Network.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that Pride Network is open to straight people, as well as gay people and bisexuals,” Haynes said. “What we really need is support from our allies.”

Ristow can be reached at lristow@campustimes.org.



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