More than three dozen LGBTQ+ and allied University of Southern Maine students, faculty and staff — President Glenn Cummings among them — marched in the annual Pride Portland parade on Saturday, June 16, in support of diversity and inclusion.
USM was one of a record 160 groups to join the parade lineup. The annual parade has been a fixture of celebration for more than 40 years among the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite the heat — temperatures soared past 80 degrees for much of the day — marchers from USM wore shirts bearing the hashtag #USMhasPride as they processed down Congress and High streets toward Deering Oaks Park, chanting the words, “Educate. No hate.”
Sarah Holmes, USM’s assistant dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator, says she often hears from students how meaningful to them it is that their University participates in the Pride events. USM has been marching in the parade annually since the summer of 2007.
“To know that the University, and our staff, faculty and their peers are committed to the mission of inclusion and equality, that we are invested in the celebration of LGBTQ+ pride, that we can be out and proud, that we are surrounded by our allies, is incredibly important,” she said. “To see the powerful joy and enthusiasm on the faces in the crowd lining the streets is really fulfilling.”
Participation in the annual Pride parade is only one way in which USM celebrates diversity and inclusion. The University is home to the office of Intercultural Student Engagement, which for 18 years has hosted the annual Royal Majesty Drag Show and Competition, one of the largest drag shows in Northern New England.
The Center also puts on the Lavender Graduation, celebrating the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ and allied students who are part of the year's graduating class. Each graduate is called forward and presented with a rainbow tassel that they may choose to wear at USM Commencement.
Following Saturday’s parade, a re-enactment of the 1983 musical “Gay Side Story,” plus a community discussion, was held at USM’s Talbot Lecture Hall. Donations accepted at that event supported USM’s LGBTQ+ Collection.
The University of Southern Maine follows a policy of nondiscrimination:
The University of Southern Maine does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veterans’ status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies: Director of Equity & Compliance, 209 Deering Avenue, Portland Campus, voice (207) 228-8304, TTY 771 (Maine Relay System).
By Alan Bennett, Office of Public Affairs