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 April 15 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. The organization celebrates diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, and promotes education about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues at UM.

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

While that time of the year is always “chaotic,” according to SpectrUM Senator Jared Payne, this past April was especially important. SpectrUM hosted a gala on April 26 in celebration of its 20th anniversary as an organization 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 hosted the gala in honor of the club’s rich history.

CJ Ortuno, the executive director of Save Dade, was 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, in order to prevent outsiders from coming and “outing” 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, began in 2004. Students “marry” their friends regardless of gender or sexual orientation. On April 12, the event ran as long as students lined up to show their support for marriage equality.

For Day of Silence on April 13, 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.

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

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

Juarez said that the room attempted to make the experience “so real and in front of your face that viewers cannot ignore it.” She hoped for the room to ultimately help people 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.

SpectrUM will hold an information session for incoming freshmen and transfer students during orientation week in August. Specifics about the meeting will be available in the orientation schedule.