Photo Shoot Shines Light on LGBTQ+ Pride

The Santa Monica College quad was bustling with music, excitement, inclusion, and pride this Tuesday, May 15 as the school celebrated Pride Week with an LGBTQ+ photo shoot to raise awareness and support pride for LGBTQ+ students, staff teachers, and community members. SMC’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) partnered with Active Minds of SMC, a new club aiming to destigmatize mental illness, to organize the event.

Students from both clubs volunteered alongside the Active Minds Advisor and SMC’s Crisis Prevention Case Management Coordinator, Lina Ladyzhenskaya. They explained that they aimed to provide LGBTQ+ students and allies an opportunity to come together for a fun time filled with photos and ice cream while showing support and making SMC a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s a community that’s underserviced, and we want to make sure that we’re supportive and that we’re an inclusive community and an inclusive environment which is what SMC is,” Ladyzhenskaya said.

The main attraction of the event was the photo booth, which sported several different pride flags as the photo background. There were many different hats, pins, signs, t-shirts, and the pride flag, many that had popular phrases supporting LGBTQ+ Pride. All students were invited and encouraged to take photos.

Among the photo booth, props, t-shirts, music, and refreshments being offered by the event, there were also several resources provided for LGBTQ+ people, especially those who may be struggling with mental health issues. These included business cards, mental health support phone numbers, LGBTQ+ resource guides, websites, and members of Active Minds available for support and questions. There were even LGBTQ+ Resource Guides available as well. You can find more information about some of these resources through the Active Minds of SMC Facebook page, and the Active Minds website.

The Pride Week event was started last year by the GSA and was actually the first event focusing on the LGBTQ+ community on campus at SMC, according to GSA President Mysterie Peña. “It was something really important that wasn’t being addressed at the time," Peña said. "We wanted to make sure that we were visible for those who are apart of the community, and that they knew that they had somewhere to go that was safe."

Peña brought up that even teachers and staff experience discrimination and stigmatism surrounding their sexuality, saying they can feel fear that they may lose their jobs or have students not take their classes if they are openly out on campus. One of their goals alongside the GSA with this event is “to make it a space for all people who come here, whether they’re students, staff, or faculty.

The event drew in a sizable crowd. Many of the students did not know that the event was happening at all, but was still excited to stop by and participate in the event. Students were eager to sport pride flags and take photos while connecting with other students, staff, and faculty about the many different topics surrounding Pride Week.

Emma Halbert, a Communication Studies major at SMC, was in for a pleasant surprise as she walked through the quad and stopped to take part in the event. “I am going to be honest, I am super surprised because I didn’t think they were having this," Halbert said. "I’m bisexual, so it’s kind of cool to be like, oh my god, this is happening? I was just talking about going to LA Pride Week next month, and this is a really pleasant surprise.”

Halbert expressed her appreciation for the two clubs that organized the photo shoot. “When you have events like these, and people who are willing to do this kind of stuff you’re like it’s not just me, other people are like this, I am not alone and there are people like me," Halbert said. "It is [an] amazing place for me to feel free, and I am really grateful for that.”