Maria Hammett said she never had a community where she felt accepted as a queer individual until she came to UCLA.
“UCLA has been really helpful in me exploring my identity and being my authentic self,” said Hammett, a third-year environmental science student.
She added she decided to come to UCLA because she felt it was open to LGBTQ individuals when she participated in the Yield program, in which high school students can explore UCLA by staying overnight on campus.
“I feel self-acceptance, and I feel self-love,” she said.
Hammett participated in the UCLA Pride Parade 2018 on Tuesday. The Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Academic Affairs Commission and Queer Alliance organized the event as part of this year’s UCLA Pride Week, a series of events to celebrate the LGBTQ community on campus. About 25 students marched through campus chanting “We’re here, we’re queer!”
Kevin Tran, a fourth-year business economics student, said he thinks events like the Pride Parade are necessary to give students a safe space to open up about their identity.
“Pride Week means to be proud and owning up to your identity and sharing it with the world without feeling any judgement, hatred or stigma about being queer in any way,” he said.
Tran added he thinks LGBTQ students at UCLA have the chance to connect with other students with similar identities.
“Being able to know that you’re not alone and that there are other people going through the same things and can relate to you is really reassuring,” he said.
Several students who participated in the parade said they think Pride Week helps more students learn about the LGBTQ community on campus.
Divya Sharma, Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Academic Affairs commissioner, said he thinks this year’s Pride Week is more high-profile than those in previous years because more students have been participating in its events.
“I remembered when I first transferred, there was not a high presence for Pride Week, so I didn’t really have a connection with it,” Sharma said. “It’s sad because my first year here I was not really open about my identity, and so it’s interesting … to organize (events) to make sure that other people feel the comfort I didn’t feel when I first arrived on campus.”
Hammett, who is also a board member of Queer Alliance, a coalition of undergraduate student groups that aims to support the LGBTQ community, said she felt a sense of pride and community at the parade because it put a spotlight on the campus’ LGBTQ community.
“The Pride Parade means being visible and being seen – we’re not in the background, we’re doing great things,” she said. “It’s great to see everyone come together and make something happen.”