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EIU 360

Two Decades of PRIDE

Long-standing RSO strives for safe and accepting environment for EIU's LGBTQA community

During second semester freshman year, Bug Wilburn was feeling lost on campus and looking for something more.

Wilburn, a senior sociology major, then found PRIDE.

PRIDE, now in its 21st year as a registered student organization, is Eastern’s RSO for those who identify as LGBTQ or are allies.

It’s a group that Wilburn, now the president of PRIDE, and 45 to 50 other members feel a place of acceptance and are able to be open with one another. PRIDE hosts weekly meetings at 8 p.m. on Mondays and discuss plans for events, as well as have discussions on issues affected the LGBTQ community.

Their work often goes beyond the meetings, Wilburn said.

On Oct. 22, a group of PRIDE members accompanied Coles County residents to Springfield to rally for same-sex marriage.

PRIDE’s participation in rallies like this one is important because they put a face to their cause.

“You can see thousands of people, and you know this issue is truly impacting people’s lives, and it’s not just something you see on the Internet or see in a magazine or see on a poster,” Wilburn said.

“You know it’s a person, and those choices and those rights affect other people.”

The group also tries to raise awareness in more informal ways.

The Diva Drag Show, which features drag queens from the Champaign area, acts as a fundraiser for the educational events, like the Sex Positive Fair and LGBTQ History Month. An event like the Diva Drag Show is a fun event but one that students can still learn information in a more accessible way.

“It’s a hugely attended event fun and is less serious time, opposed to (learning) through history boards,” Wilburn said.

Events like these, whether more lighthearted, like the Diva Drag Show, or educational, help make the message of PRIDE more relatable.

“Sometimes, it is easy to forget that there is a whole community of people who are affected by different things,” Wilburn said.

To keep members and the public continuously informed, PRIDE members post on their Facebook page, which currently has 512 members. They also try to get the word out about their events out through chalking on the sidewalks, word of mouth or educational panels.

The more people the group can get involved, the better.

“The more numbers we have and the more people we have working for the same common goal, the better it is,” Wilburn said.

When Molly Ferris, a senior psychology major and vice president of PRIDE, first decided to attend a meeting freshman year after seeing a billboard at Pantherpalooza and hasn’t really missed one since. To Ferris, PRIDE is more than just another RSO; it’s a core group of friends.

“I hope to take these friends with me after I graduate and hopefully forever,” she said.

Wilburn said this is another of the main goals of PRIDE -- to go beyond the meetings. They meet up for weekly lunches and make sure to keep in touch as much as possible.

“We don’t just want to be a meeting that meets once a week in the Union and then you never see us again,” Wilburn said. “We try to interact with everyone outside, and we want those real friendships to last and to carry with you through your time at Eastern.”

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