Pride Week brings celebration, series of hate crimes

For more than 50 years, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have gathered for Pride Week—building community, gathering allies and reflecting on lived experiences. In one week, members and friends and family of Utah’s LGBTQIA+ community will gather to celebrate Pride Week (May 29-June 5).

While Pride Week is a time of celebration, its events also can become targets for hate crimes, spurring increased vandalism, harassment and physical attacks. And this year, the annual celebrations coincide with an uptick in social commentary and political efforts to reverse and limit transgender rights.

Since Pride Week at the U, March 19-25, University of Utah Safety officials have documented five cases of hateful or biased crimes on campus directed at members of the LGBTQIA+ community, including:

These incidents coincide with escalating debate and legislation to curb the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. More than 300 bills have been introduced across the country in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In this heightened environment, members of the University of Utah community have a unique role to play, said Mary Ann Villarreal, vice president for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Allies at the U can help by de-escalating conflicts, speaking up when they see a hate-based crime, and coming together to support all LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff—even during the quieter summer months.

“These acts demean, dismiss and attempt to erase the day-to-day experiences of our friends and family members,” Villarreal said. “We are working to create a campus community where all individuals feel a sense of safety and belonging, and have the space to explore, express and celebrate their whole selves.”

While members of the campus community are urged to act individually, university leaders have committed to several campus-wide efforts, including the Presidential Commission on Equity and Belongings (PCEB) and the annual Day of Collective Action.

University record-keeping systems for students and employees also have changed to better reflect the campus community. Beginning in January 2021, students and employees have chosen the option of updating their profiles in the online Campus Information Services (CIS) portal and in the campus directory to include gender pronouns other preferred names. Also last fall, the LGBT Resource Center launched two new initiatives for the QTSOC (Queer and Trans Students of Color) community—hiring a new QTSOC Community Development Specialist position and creating a QTSOC affinity space through social meetings and events.

“We will continue to defend and preserve the rights of every member of our campus community to live authentically,” said Taylor Randall, president. “We are committed to preserving the University of Utah’s campus as a place where everyone feels welcome, safe and included.”

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