For the duration of October, Ramapo will be observing National Disability Awareness Month and Queer and Trans History Month. Designed to educate students on the importance and contributions of these communities, the events being held this month include Pridefest, disability awareness student panels and a queer mixer for LGBTQIA+ students and their allies.
On Monday, the opening proclamation began with Ebony Jackson, coordinator of the Women’s Center, giving the history behind both observances.
“LGBT History Month originated in the United States and was first celebrated in 1994,” she explained. “It was founded by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson.”
The month of October was chosen because Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. This year, the Ramapo community will be celebrating it by holding its first ever Pridefest.
“October also commemorated the first march for Washington for lesbian, gay and bi equal rights and liberation by LGBT people in 1979,” Jackson said.
Disability Awareness Month began in 1945, when Congress established it as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. It was extended in 1988 to the longer Disability Awareness Month as we know it today.
“Both month long observances serve to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts and contributions that LGBTQIA+ people and people with disabilities have made throughout history and as well as today,” she said. “Both month long observances also serve to educate others about the contributions and issues facing both these communities.”
Next, Nicole Morgan Agard, the director of employee relations, read out Ramapo’s official opening proclamation.
“Ramapo College of New Jersey is proud to recognize National Disability Awareness Month and Queer and Trans History Month,” she said. “Recognition of National Disability Awareness Month is a symbol of our commitment to provide opportunity, growth and visibility for people with disabilities, as well as fostering awareness and education of disability issues in our community. In recognizing Queer and Trans History Month, Ramapo College supports and recognizes the importance of increasing awareness, education and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual people among other sexual orientations and gender identities.”
This year, the events are centered around the theme “a culture of resistance.”
Several of the Women’s Center’s Peer Queer educators also came forward to share what these observances meant to them.
“When I think about Disability Awareness Month, there are two things that come to my mind,” said sophomore Nat Dahl. “The first is that it’s okay to be different…This month to me says that it’s okay to come out in the open and talk about your disability and live your truth.”
She mentioned that many people with disabilities are often encouraged to hide them so that they can appear as “normal.” Some events throughout the month will also highlight invisible disabilities and encourage people not to assume things about others.
“I’m very appreciative that we have people working on this month that try to make it as inclusive as possible by gearing and leaning the advocacy and education to multiple queer and gender identities,” said senior Berly Rivera. “It’s very important to talk about more than just lesbian, gay and bisexual identities because there are so many more identities that don’t have that kind of light.”
She also stressed that these issues are important throughout the entire year.
“Our advocacy doesn’t end after the month of October,” said Rivera. “It’s continuous because our gender identities are for life.”