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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Conversations, community, coffee for Pride Month

Photo by Photo by Cameron Johnson

The exterior of POV Coffee House, an extension of The Stella Hotel, in Bryan, Texas on June 14, 2022.

Pride Month is a time to let true colors shine, and with the Pride Community Center, community can be built over a single cup of coffee.
Located in Brazos Valley, the Pride Community Center was built in 2010 with a goal of providing a safe place for individuals of all identities to create connections without fear, according to the Pride Community Center website. On the third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m., the center hosts their Coffee Shop Social at POV Coffee House. Everyone is encouraged to attend, including students and adults, with a goal of building community and encouraging visibility of the LGBTQ organization. 
Frances Jackson is the coordinator of the LGBTQ+ Pride Center  at Texas A&M and said Pride Month is important for both historical and personal reasons. 
“Pride Month is held in June to commemorate Stonewall, which was an LGBTQ+ event that happened in New York City when police raided a mob bar — there weren’t gay bars at the time,” Jackson said. “From there, folks rallied and started the gay liberation movement across the nation to advocate for things like marriage equality. There are times when people aren’t out due to safety or security issues so, during Pride Month, you’re encouraged to embrace all the beautiful parts of yourself.”
Jackson said students on campus who identify as LGBTQ often struggle with possible family rejection, which could cause them to lose their source of income or support. According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 20 percent of LGBTQ college students were concerned for their physical safety on campus because of their identities.  
Jackson said the goal of the LGBTQ+ Pride Center is to help build an inclusive campus for every student through programs and leadership.
“The Pride Center on campus strives to create an environment that supports the success of every student through education, advancement and championing a broad spectrum of sexual, affectional and gender identities in the spirit of the Aggie Core Values,” Jackson said. “For example, we have our mentorship programs where we connect students with faculty staff or former students. They can help with academic and professional success, but also personal identity.”  
Josh Tutt, Class of 2015, is the vice president for the Pride Community Center and said the Coffee Shop Social was inspired by a previous event that was halted due to COVID-19. 
“We knew that, especially after the pandemic, we wanted to create more events for people to have community and meet each other,” Tutt said. “Pride Community Center focuses on the entire Brazos Valley, and we decided to go with a coffee shop because there’s some people in our community who are under 21 and can’t drink [alcohol] or people who are sober by choice.”
POV offers a neutral third space for participants to ask questions and make new friends, Tutt said, and everyone is welcomed to attend.
“There are folks who may only go to one club, student organization, bar or Facebook group,” Tutt said. “We don’t always intermix and meet each other, and so I hope a social event gives a place where people can come and meet somebody new and realize that there’s more of us out here than it can seem at first glance.”
Tutt said he wants to increase the scope of the event in the future while keeping the original goal of allowing people a safe space to socialize. 
“I hope that it grows and people who are interested come and find us,” Tutt said. “I don’t really have a big agenda for it. There’s no talking points and there’s no real plan, it’s just a time to come and hang out.”
Andrew Roblyer, Class of 2013, said A&M has been improving on being LGBTQ friendly since his time on campus. However, in 2011 while wearing a shirt that said “God Accepts You,” Roblyer said he received heavy criticism from some individuals.

 “That day on campus was the most jarring, simply because it felt like a different campus,” Roblyer said. “I had people intentionally bump into me a couple of times and had at least one person proselytize to me at a bus stop, trying to tell me why God didn’t actually accept me, which was really interesting because nothing about the shirt said I’m gay, but that was clearly the assumption.”
Roblyer said one of the best ways for people outside of a community to build connections with people inside a community is to listen and to ask genuine and appropriate questions.
“It can feel really overwhelming, especially as you start to understand that there’s a lot of identities and letters that have been added and changed over the years,” Roblyer said. “The best thing you can do is admit when you don’t know something. As you start to listen to people and give them verbal support, it is a way of letting people know that you’re safe for them to connect with and from there, it builds and it grows and you form relationships, friendships and kinship.”
Creating a strong community takes time and effort, Roblyer said, and although Pride Month is a wonderful celebration, there is still work that needs to be done.  
“Building community is a never ending process,” Roblyer said. “It’s never done. We’re never going to be able to sit back and say, ‘We’ve built community, our job is done.’ It is a constant, intentional process, and when we can approach it as such, then that’s where real healing starts to take place and real connection begins to be built.”
For more information on the Coffee Shop Social, visit the Coffee Shop Social website.

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