Finding My Pride On Campus (and Learning to Love It)

by Mia Woo on January 3, 2020

Finding My Pride On Campus (and Learning to Love It)

by Mia Woo on January 3, 2020

I discovered PRIDE Club at the activities fair as a freshman—the rainbow flag draped over the table caught my eye. I was out back then, but I wasn’t proud yet.

When I first started coming out, my friends were nothing but supportive, for which I’m incredibly grateful. But on a personal level, they didn’t know what I was feeling. I went through the coming-out process alone.

- Mia Woo

I was too anxious to sign up, so I let myself look at the table for a second longer before walking past it and pretending to look at the other clubs. After a few laps around the fair, I squared my shoulders, took a breath, and walked up to the table to sign up. 

Going to my first PRIDE Club meeting some weeks later was an intimidating experience, to say the least. I was part of a small PRIDE club at my high school, but it was inactive and, at the time, I wasn’t out yet—not even to myself. This was the first time I had ever owned my sexuality in a public space. Until then, I had never really met other queer people either—people who were like me. When I first started coming out, my friends were nothing but supportive, for which I’m incredibly grateful. But on a personal level, they didn’t know what I was feeling. I went through the coming-out process alone. 

When I arrived at Arcadia, I thought I’d still feel alone. But PRIDE proved me wrong. For the first time, I was meeting people and making friends who understood what it was like to be queer. Turns out, we had a lot in common, especially when it came to struggles and hardships. I was finally able to talk to other people without the fear of being misunderstood or standing out. This was a pivotal moment in my life, because for the first time I was starting to feel proud of who I was. It felt good to be out and proud at the same time.

Be fearlessly authentic text illustrated by Mia Woo.

I partook in Arcadia’s First-Year Study Abroad Experience, so I had to say goodbye to PRIDE while I was abroad in London in the spring. Toward the end of the semester, I received an email about board member elections. I loved being a club member, but I wasn’t perfectly content. I felt like I needed to be doing more for my community. I felt like PRIDE had the potential to evolve—to be more active, more educational, more fun—and I wanted to be part of making it happen. I never wanted incoming first-years or anyone else to feel insecure and alone like I did, so I decided to run for vice President. I wrote a bio about myself, including all the ideas I had for the club and why I thought I would be a good vice president, which was used in the ballots for the election. And I won!

Two students wearing dresses dancing in the mirror room during PRIDE prom.

PRIDE prom, one of our annual events.

PRIDE Club’s primary mission is to provide a safe space where LGBTQ+ students and allies on campus can find a sense of community. We think it’s important to address relevant issues, so sometimes during our meetings we’ll have open discussions about current events pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community, or we’ll act as a support group for one another, reflecting on our experiences and giving advice to each other.  We also think it’s important to have fun! PRIDE Club hosts an annual Pride Prom every spring, and this year we hosted our first-ever talent show, Argaydia’s Got Talent, which we hope to make an annual event. 

In addition to these two larger events, our more relaxed meetings can range from movie nights to following Bob Ross painting tutorial videos. And although PRIDE Club is an excellent resource for LGBTQ+ students (I may be just a tad bit biased), Arcadia provides other sources of support as well.  One is Queer Space, a weekly group therapy session hosted by Arcadia’s Counseling Services. The group is a non-judgmental, safe space for LGBTQ+ students and is led by one of Arcadia’s staff therapists.

I’m very fortunate to attend a University that embraces inclusivity and welcomes LGBTQ+ students to be authentic to themselves, not just within an academic environment. It isn’t perfect, but Arcadia is still a safe place to be nonetheless. In an ideal world, students wouldn’t need a club like PRIDE; but until then, I’m going to keep working to the best of my abilities to get there— and I’m going to do it with the pride within me that I’m learning to love.