Taking Pride in Inclusivity

Cultivating Community for LGBTQ+ Students at UND

Victoria Ledum, Website Manager & Reporter

 National Coming Out Day, observed October 11th,  celebrates and supports those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in coming out. At the University of North Dakota, the Pride Center hosted several events, activities, and workshops to increase awareness and inclusivity on campus during the week of October 11th. 

Pride Center Director, Jeff Maliskey spoke on the history and importance of Coming Out Day. “It was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1988, a year after the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,” Maliskey said. “The act of coming out was viewed as a form of activism … It was a means to break silence to start addressing hostility towards LGBTQ+ people.”  

Since 1988, the day has evolved to place “emphasis on visibility and raising awareness about LGBTQ+ issues but also to celebrate and acknowledge the strength and courage it takes to come out,” Maliskey said.  

During the week of October 11th, Coming Out Day, the University hosted the following events:  

Oct. 11 | Coming Out Day Cupcakes  

Oct. 11 | LGBTQ+ and Ally Forum  

Oct. 12 | Let’s Talk: LGBTQIA+ Workshop   

Oct. 13 | Queering Sex Ed  

Oct. 14 | LGBTQ+ Ally Training  

Next month, the following events will be hosted on campus as part of Transgender Awareness Week:   

Tuesday, Nov. 15 | Express Yourself Closet  

Wednesday, Nov. 16 | LGBTQ+ Ally Training Pt. II  

Thursday, Nov. 17 | Gender Exploration Workshop  

Friday, Nov. 18 | Beyond the Binary Forum 

Inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ+ community is not exclusive to one day. The UND Pride Center was opened in 2017 to provide support and serve the LGBTQ+ community on campus. The mission of the center “is all about providing support and advocating for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff as a means to promote a safe, welcoming, and inclusivity community,” Maliskey said. This mission is achieved through “creating intentional events and social opportunities to help build community and sense of belonging on campus”.   

The efforts and events hosted by the Pride Center have helped to make meaningful impacts on campus and in the Grand Forks community. Maliskey has worked with over 250 faculty and staff in LGBTQ+ Training to create more safe spaces for students on campus. The Pride Center has also worked with the Medical School, School of Law, Student Health Services, and Residence Life in an effort to eliminate biases and increase inclusion. Students have expressed appreciation for “LGBTQ+ inclusive events, seeing pride flags around campus along with the LGBTQ+ Ally placard, and having a space to gather and feel supported” according to Maliskey.  

However, there is still significant room for growth. Students at UND often relay experiences of “being misgendered by instructors and students in the classroom, experiencing Queer and Trans hostility in the form of derogatory and hurtful comments, and not feeling included or accepted in various aspects of campus life,” Maliskey said.    

Maliskey sees several opportunities for change on campus that may help solve some of these issues. These changes include alterations to course curriculum that “use outdated terminology or do not include current identities, experiences, research” and make “generalizations about an entire population,” Maliskey said. He also feels that including LGBTQ+-specific courses, especially in human services studies, is crucial to increasing inclusivity and creating effective change.  

Outside of the classroom, Maliskey expressed a need to increase LGBTQ+ specialists in the Counseling Center and Student Health Services. On campus, Maliskey would like to see an increase in gender-inclusive restrooms, support resources, scholarship opportunities for LGBTQ+ students, and an expansion of non-discrimination policies.   

The Pride Center works tirelessly to provide “resources, educational experiences, and intersectional programming to address the needs of the LGBTQ+ community at UND”. Maliskey serves as Director and works with students to “help navigate and support,” his door is always open to students with questions or in need of resources.   

The Pride Center is located on the second floor of the Memorial Union in room 204. 

 Victoria Ledum is the Dakota Student Website Manager and General Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected].