PRISM hosts LGBTQ activist and vigil

By Melissa Reed
Correspondent

To raise awareness to the difficulties and triumphs of the people in the LGBTQ community, PRISM hosted two events on Monday, Oct. 14 and Wednesday, Oct. 16 for Queer Awareness Month.

The “For Those We Have Lost” balloon vigil, hosted at Alumni Grove on Wednesday, Oct. 16, had students pause in remembrance of  LGBTQ community members who lost their lives due to violence and bullying. Participants wrote names of individuals who had lost their lives to anti-queer violence or anti-queer bullying and eventually released the biodegradable balloons in remembrance.

Balloons rise to the sky’s horizon in commemoration. (Sorraya Brashear-Evans / Staff Photographer)

The president of PRISM introduced the vigil’s guest speakers, Magda Manetas, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students, and Lisa Cato, an Episcopalian minister and chaplain of the College’s Canterbury House.

“The group grows every year,” Manetas said, adding that every year a larger amount of students join PRISM and the event, causing the vigil to really gain momentum in its mission to raise awareness.

Cato led a short prayer as participants readied themselves to release the balloons in ceremonious remembrance. Sophomore psychology major Disha Dass, sophomore biology major Lauren Pardon and junior computer engineering major Kari Gilbertson also added to the awareness service and sang a musical commemorative performance, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Though some families might not be very accepting of their children’s sexual identity or orientation, the College has an open environment facilitated by groups like PRISM.

Throughout the month, PRISM has many events and speakers that encourage awareness of the LGBTQ community. On Monday, Oct. 14, PRISM hosted a speaker who supporters and members of the LGBTQ community could really admire: S. Bear Bergman.

At the event titled “LGBT, Tikkun Olam, and Me,” Bergman — an author, theater artist, longtime activist and poet — shared his childhood memories as a Jewish female and his transitioning to a male.

When Bergman’s parents found out that he was in the newspaper for lecturing people on issues surrounding intersections between genders, sexuality and culture, they were horrified, Bergman explained to the Library Auditorium audience.

“I’m addressing ignorance with education,” Bergman said. “My dad would say, ‘I just don’t understand. Like, if you’re going to be queer, bisexual or gay or whatever I was identified as at the time, I just don’t understand why you couldn’t please just do it quietly.’”

Bergman explained that he understood his father’s perspective, but continued educating people on sexual and gender identities.

“I’m a storyteller,” Bergman said. “I’m not shy, I’ve always been prepared to stand up in front of people and do a little song and dance, and I always have been.”