Celebrating the LGBTQ+ Community: A Pride Week Recap
By Chelsey Sanchez and Trevor Schock
From Monday, May 22 to Thursday, May 25, SMC hosted its first official Pride Week, a week of on-campus events made to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community. The week was a collaborative effort between Associated Students, the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), and Urban Mediamakers West.
Open Mic Night was the first big event to kick off Pride Week. It took place at the Pool Deck on Monday, May 22. Typically, open mics provide a spotlight for amateur performers who can sign up prior to or during the event. Attendees signed up to perform spoken word, music, and even stand-up comedy. Mysterie Pena, president of Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and the first performer of the night, recited “Dear Straight People,” a poem by Denice Frohman.
“I definitely struggled with being a trans-man myself,” Pena said. “Reading a poem from the perspective of a lesbian -- I was very nervous about that. The thing was that I knew I would be accepted no matter what, and I knew that everyone would support me even if I wasn’t necessarily presenting or expressing myself as who I am and [instead] expressing myself from the perspective of that person and their story.”
“The goal is to get people from all over the world -- different races, creeds, colors, religions, sexual orientations -- get them all in the same place and the same space on the same page to have fun, and I think we did that,” Peyton See, president of Urban Mediamakers West, said of the Open Mic event. He continued, “That’s very important: solidarity. The best way to move forward is to work together.”
The second event, Concert Day, took place on Tuesday, May 23. The atmosphere of inclusivity from the night before continued on into the mini music festival, which was reflected by a lineup of diverse performers.
The first performer was Shayne Grey. She played a solo electric set to a small but lively crowd, mostly consisting of GSA members. After her was Sanjana Deshmukh, who performed an acoustic set, mostly of her original songs, but it also included a couple of covers. Local musician Zac Anciano then played another acoustic performance of emotional music.
The overall attendance was mostly GSA members, but more students stopped by later on during the concert. Some were waving rainbow flags; one even wore one as a cape. Between sets, music played over the speakers, and everyone in attendance perked up and sang every word when Frank Ocean’s "Thinkin’ Bout You" came on.
The concert attracted a noticeable line of people when free tacos were offered. This allowed a large crowd to form when the last band went on, a nameless indie-punk band consisting of two brothers, Andrew and Daniel Cielak. Their energetic music was a big contrast from the slower acoustic acts of the day.
The Cielak brothers recently moved to Santa Monica from Chicago and also played at the Open Mic Night on Monday. The duo was deeply immersed in their performance, and it showed. Near the end of the event, foot traffic on the path passing the quad picked up, and several people stopped to watch the set.
On Wednesday, May 24, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was screened at the Cayton Center. Rainbow colored flags and banners hung on the ceilings and walls of the rooms. Popcorn and drinks were also provided to those in attendance.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” a 1975 musical comedy-horror film directed by Jim Sharman, features Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Peter Hinwood. Since its conception, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” gained an international following as a ‘midnight movie.’ Additionally, the film is usually screened with a cast of real-life actors reenacting the story while the movie plays behind them on a screen.
Mysterie Pena, who works with the shadow-cast that performs “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” suggested that this particular film be screened for its audience participation merit and for its significance in the LGBTQ+ community.
Throughout the screening, audience members were welcomed to shout callbacks at the movie or sing and dance along to songs. This event was indicative of what the rest of Pride Week represented: curating a safe space of inclusivity where someone could express themselves without any inhibitions.
The last event, the Pride Week Fashion Show, took place on Thursday, May 25 at the Clock Tower Quad. A regular concrete walkway transformed into a catwalk as chairs were set up along the lawn. Loud music pulsed through the quad as models performed and strutted down the sidewalk.
As soon as the Fashion Show started, students quickly gathered around the commotion. The chairs filled up, but people continued to stand in order to watch their fellow classmates and faculty members perform in drag. Each model braving the runway was given a nickname, such as “Dr. Fatale” for GSA’s advisor, Professor Nathaniel Donahue, or “Ferry Bueller” for Pena himself. A triple threat that consisted of Pena, Professor Donahue, and AS member Isabel Castillo called themselves "Sex Bomb and Her Sluts."
Jesua Bones, the host of the Fashion Show, started doing drag right after high school. “I was going through a lot of social anxiety issues and I got tired of it. I wanted a reason to get me out of my comfort zone,” Bones said. “I was Jesus Ramos, but I wanted to make a name for somebody that’s the opposite of who I am as a timid regular person. So, Jesua Bones came.” She credits her reduced state of anxiety to performing in drag.
Tommy Pathammavong, whose stage name was "Vixyn," performed in drag for the first time on Thursday. The crowd’s energy helped him keep his cool. He chose his favorite song to perform to and improvised the rest. “I didn’t even know I could do a split, and then I did it,” Pathammavong said.
Ronald Jackson, a student attending the Fashion Show, said, “I have [been to a drag show before], that’s why I wanted to come [here] and see what it was like. It was interesting; I like how they did it.”
As for Jesua Bones, she saw the event as a success. She said, "It’s so fun. Especially when you’re allowing people to question gender roles or sexuality. It really changes perspectives and opens doors.”