SpectrUM celebrates two decades of pride

Looking out over a procession of flags, floats and fanfare, SpectrUM members sat high up in the trees on Ocean Drive on Sunday to celebrate diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity during the annual Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade.

But pride awareness is not just about rainbows for SpectrUM, which promotes education about and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues at the UM.

April is always a big month for SpectrUM – from hosting Pride Awareness Week events and celebrating at Sunday’s parade one week to organizing a room with Tunnel of Oppression the next.

While this time of the year is always “chaotic”, according to SpectrUM Senator Jared Payne, this April is especially important. SpectrUM will be hosting a gala on April 26 in celebration of its 20th anniversary on campus.

“It shows that we’re a group that has significance on this campus,” Payne said. “We’re a population that isn’t just phasing in and out after everyone graduates.”

Pat Whitely, vice president of student affairs, and the Division of Student Affairs will host the gala in honor of the club’s rich history.

CJ Ortuno, the executive director of Save Dade, will be the keynote speaker at the event. Save Dade is a local organization that works to prevent LGBT discrimination.

When the Committee on Student Organizations recognized the club in 1992, it began as a secret group called the Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Community. Meetings were closed, with times and locations changing each week, so no outsiders could come and out the members.

Getting its office in the University Center in 1998 was its first big step toward becoming a more open community. Being renamed SpectrUM in 2003 also made the organization more inclusive.

SpectrUM President Shelby Juarez said that the longevity of the club is a testament to its ability to adapt as the needs of the LGBT community shift.

Marriages on the Rock, SpectrUM’s largest Pride Awareness Week event, took place on Thursday but began in 2004. Students “marry” their friends regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Last week, the event ran as long as students lined up to show their support for marriage equality.

For Day of Silence on Friday, SpectrUM members gave out pieces of silver tape in the shape of an X so that students could silently protest the harassment of LGBT students.

Members’ attendance at the Gay Pride Parade topped off Pride Awareness Week.

“I’m very for gay rights and it’s a huge parade,” said Christina Robinson, a member of SpectrUM.

SpectrUM Secretary Rachel Rowlinson called it a celebration of being different. From the dressed up to the underdressed, she said she loves the people and the people-watching.

SpectrUM will also participate in Tunnel of Oppression for the fourth year in a row. Tours through the club’s room will be led Monday through Wednesday to spread awareness about suicide in the LGBT community.

“We wanted to create a new room, something original, but we still wanted to strike an emotional nerve,” Payne said.

Juarez said that the room will make the experience “so real and in front of your face that viewers cannot ignore it.” She hopes that, ultimately, people will shed the mindset that these problems are limited to the LGBT community.

“Tunnel’s subcategory issues are our issues, as humanity, and gay issues are our issues, regardless of who you are,” Juarez said.