Cal Poly Pomona Pride Center welcomes the semester with Q-Camp

By Erin Han and Billy Huang, Feb. 14, 2023

Cal Poly Pomona’s Pride Center hosted their bi-annual Q-Camp on Feb. 9 to kick off the semester and provide students who identify as LGBTQIA+ with a safe space on campus to express themselves as they please.

The event took place in Ursa Minor at the Bronco Student Center. Representatives from the Pomona Pride Center, Tri-City Mental Health Center and Student Health and Wellness Services set up booths to give out free merchandise and informative flyers, promoting a positive environment for participants to socialize.

According to the Identity Development and Education Coordinator, Joshua Salazar, Q-Camp is held twice a year, once at the beginning of the semester to create a welcoming space for anyone who needs it.

“The Pride Center typically is the only place where students can really feel like their true authentic selves,” said Salazar. “We wanted to create a space at the beginning of each semester so that queer students can meet other queer students, connect with them, build that community.”

Salazar said it is important for the LGBTQIA+ community on campus to be able to attend these events and have a safe space because it is not only vital to their success, but also their journey to discovering themselves.

“Student safety and security and feeling seen and heard is just as important as grades,” said Salazar. “Their opinion and their identities and expressions matter to the university.”

Queer support organizations such as Tri-City Mental Health Center and Student Health and Wellness Center are also promoting different education courses and therapy sessions to students who may be having a hard time accepting who they are.

According to Salazar, the Pride Center also provides resources to support students’ academic endeavors, personal lives, as well as social and emotional development.

Biochemistry student Gavin Smedt explained that queer people have a desire to freely express themselves but often find that they have to hide who they are in order to fit in.

“It’s like we’re discouraged from being who we are and engaging with people that share those values,” said Smedt.

Smedt also shared his experiences about the difficulties of fitting in as a queer person as many feminine or queer-oriented hobbies like drag are discouraged and shamed upon.

“Literally everything is gendered, like even being masc and femme is like man and woman, that’s gendered, even within the male gay community,” said Smedt. “Masculinity is valued and being feminine is undesirable in our heteronormative society.”

At Q-Camp, some students from other organizations on campus including ASI stopped by only to grab the free food,despite not having RSVP’d for the event or staying for the meeting.

This incident made some students feel uncomfortable about the fact that anyone can just come into their safe space and reap the benefits of queer events but never actually connect with queer students.

For animal science major Neil Li, his favorite part of the event was meeting new people as well as the food.  According to Li, a safe space doesn’t necessarily have to be separate from the rest of the campus community.

Li said it is also important to connect with others in spaces outside the community in order to find a sense of belonging.

Salazar said identifying as queer is often an “invisible identity” that people may not choose to disclose right away. Being vulnerable can also be difficult for queer individuals as they have to let their guards down and build trust with others.

“There haven’t been, you know, a lot of opportunities and experiences for queer students to feel like the university really sees them, and really validates and affirms their existence on this campus,” said Salazar.

According to Salazar, the easiest way to support and get involved with the LGBTQIA+ community on campus is to attend events hosted by the Pride Center. CPP’s Pride Center is located in Building 26, room 107 across from the BSC.

Feature image courtesy of Erin Han

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