Cal State Fullerton’s LGBT Queer Resource Center kicked off LGBTQ History Month with a reception at the Fullerton Arboretum hosted by President Mildred García.
Chris Datiles, coordinator of the LGBT Queer Resource Center, gave the opening remarks before García called for a moment of silence to honor the Las Vegas shooting victims.
García followed the moment of silence with a speech on standing with minorities.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” García said. “It is time for all of us, faculty, staff and students, to wield the power of our collective voice to let the world know where we stand, on the right side of history.”
Amber Cornelius, identity and development programming lead of the LGBT Queer Resource Center, took time to reflect on prominent LGBTQ members who have died. Cornelius introduced third-year social work major Isaiah Acevedo, who performed Pink’s “What About Us” and Alessia Cara’s “Wild Things.”
The featured keynote speaker Vincent T. Harris, director of CSUF’s Male Success Initiative, presented “Embracing the Complex His-Stories,” a speech about growing up in the South and the effects of community institutions on LGBTQ boys.
“The truth about stories is that’s all we are,” Harris said. “We’re nothing but stories and it’s through these stories that we’re able to understand who we truly are and who we truly want to become.”
Harris read a series of letters he wrote as a part of his autoethnographic research reflecting on his experiences growing up as a gay person of color in Birmingham, Alabama to demonstrate the complexities of toxic masculinity and the need for acceptance.
In the first letter, “Reflections of my Childhood,” Harris recounted growing up in the birthplace of the civil rights movement and the struggle of living up to his father’s expectations of masculinity while struggling with gender norms and sexuality.
The second and third letters focused on Harris’ personal narrative of being gay, black and male in college while trying to maintain a “normal” persona to be accepted.
“Deep down, I just wanted to be Vincent,” Harris said. “But in all honesty, in college I wanted to be the black male who had it all figured out. One of my top priorities in college was to successfully maintain a consistent perception of a normal, straight black man with a college degree.”
The evening ended with Harris inviting men of color from the audience to stand with him while he read his fourth letter, “With Hope, A Breathing Black Man,” which celebrated LGBTQ men of color.
“It is my hope that we can use our own stories and our lived experiences to deconstruct borders, to transcend differences and to reaffirm our common humanity,” Harris said.
The LGBT Queer Resource Center has a number of activities planned for LGBTQ History Month focused on the theme “Strength in Community, Pride in Resilience,” including an event for National Coming Out Day Oct. 11 and the third annual drag show Oct. 18.