Tech’s campus and the streets of Midtown Atlanta were packed and vibrant this past weekend as thousands of people came out to celebrate Atlanta Pride.
Atlanta Pride is a weekend festival that was established in 1971, and the city has long awaited for the event’s return after its pandemic hiatus.
For many current Tech students, this was their first Pride experience due to the fact that the last festival was in 2019. They did not have a chance to partake in the celebration at its fullest back then, but fortunately this year Pride was back in full swing.
On campus, students had the opportunity to join in the festivities on campus with PrideFest, a community event hosted by Pride Alliance as a part of Coming Out Week.
The vice president of the organization, Vic Paulson, third-year ME, was happy to see so many students enjoy the event.
“When I first got involved with Pride Alliance in 2020, everyone came to play ‘Among Us’ on Zoom, and now we have over 500 people showing up to an in person event,” they said.
Located on Tech Green, the event promoted different organizations and resources on campus: everything from roller derby, DramaTech Theatre and Anime Club to the CRC and information about crisis housing and the LGBTQIA Resource Center. Another major aspect of the event was promoting civic engagement, and there were people helping students register to vote for the upcoming election.
Outside of providing important information and resources, PrideFest was also meant to be just a fun time for students to connect with their community. Cute stickers were handed out, as well as tote bags and pride flags. There was music and dancing, and an overall sense of joy enveloped Tech Green.
“I think it’s really important to have these events like PrideFest to have kind of that visibility, and to show not just current students, but for future students in the greater Atlanta community [they are accepted],” Paulson said.
Paulson is not from the South, and when they arrived to Atlanta they did not know what the city would be like or if their non-binary identity would be accepted.
“I didn’t know much about Georgia Tech or the culture here. I just knew I was going to the South, and I was terrified,” Paulson said. “I think it’s really important for current and future students to know that they will be accepted and loved here.”
PrideFest planning started in April, and the executive board put a lot of work into making the event a fun and informative space for the Tech community. It was clear that students enjoyed the event.
Srujan Penta, first-year ECE graduate student, is one student in particular who was inspired to attend the Atlanta Pride
Parade after a positive experience at PrideFest. Penta is an international student from India and is a part of Grad Pride, and this year was his first time attending a Pride event.
“[At PrideFest] I felt so in place and part of a community on a campus … on a city level like Atlanta, that would make me feel much more happy and comfortable and express myself completely.”
Penta expresses himself and his identity as a gay man through makeup and went to PrideFest with a full face of makeup. He received a lot of love and compliments from his fellow LGBT community members, and saw this as a sign that he should branch out and go even bigger.
“I’m a guy wearing makeup, expressing myself and being celebrated for that, so then I thought I can go all out if I go to the [Atlanta] Pride Parade,” Penta said.
Penta used this opportunity to do the makeup look of his dreams: one that he never had the opportunity to share until now. He created a colorful pride flag inspired eyeshadow look to attend the official Atlanta Pride Parade.
As an international student, Penta never had the opportunity to safely or confidently express his pride before attending Tech. He was once very hesitant about being open and attending pride events, but he became comfortable after seeing how welcoming and prevalent the LGBT community is at Tech and in Atlanta overall.
He discovered that many others in Grad Pride were also international students and was quickly able to connect with these students as both being from outside of the U.S. and also LGBT. Penta wants LGBT students to know that there is a place for them at Tech, even if they are not open about their identity.
“You don’t need to like jump in and go all out like some of us did, you can take your time [with being more open],” Penta said.
Rachel Lynn Mason, second-year BIO, had attended Pride while studying abroad but did not feel connected to the event until being a part of Atlanta Pride this year.
“To me, it was a great experience, I loved just being able to come out and see my community really show up for me,” Mason said. “I got to march with some of my closest friends and just enjoy a very energetic atmosphere with so much love and brilliance and just kindness coming from all different places.”
With a pride flag tied around her shoulders like a cape, Mason marched in the parade and had the opportunity to express her identity as a lesbian openly, something she had kept quiet about herself for most of her life.
“A year ago, this is something I wasn’t speaking to anyone about … I think in the past, I probably would have gone to Pride but not as a member of the community, and it was such a cool experience for me to just be that overt,” Mason said.
Pride Weekend is such an important event for the LGBT community, but it is crucial to remember to make spaces inclusive and welcoming for all year-round. There are always opportunities for institutions like Tech to strive for more.
“I think that allyship is something that we all need to be mindful of every day, members of the queer community included, just need to be continually striving to make our spaces inclusive and safe,” Mason said.
“I see that happen at Georgia Tech all the time, and I see the potential for it to happen even more.”