The social activism that will be on display during Saturday's Northern Nevada Pride Festival and Community Parade presents educators such as Emily Hobson and Daniel Enrique Perez with an interesting exercise, one that challenges their ability to compartmentalize.
There will always be moments when their professorial leanings will instinctively tell them take a step back and observe what is happening at an event like Saturday's ... at the same time that they will be participating in the event.
Perez, director of the Core Humanities Program and an Associate Professor of World Languages and Literatures, attended his first Pride event in Reno shortly arriving here in 2004. He has written of that experience, "It was a small, but meaningful event. It helped assure me that Reno was a place where I, a queer Chicano male, had a community that might embrace me and make me feel at home."
Hobson, an Assistant Professor of History and Gender, Race and Identity, can still remember being of middle school age watching the acclaimed Civil Rights documentary, "Eyes on the Prize" with her parents and feeling moved to find out more about social justice movements. In the classroom, however, she feels it is her duty to "try to keep a boundary on what my job is," which includes presenting material from varied sources and perspectives on LGBTQ issues, and welcoming all student perspectives -- provided they are presented in a respectful and constructive manner.
Hobson says that while discussion of LGBTQ issues tends to generate empathy among students, empathy alone "can't be the assessment of whether or not the material has made a difference." Rather, her goal is for students to understand the history behind the issues and to think critically about social change. For Hobson, it is important that there is rigor in her classroom as she and her students discuss the key developments, themes and progression of a rapidly growing area of U.S. history. "We work at taking things apart," she said of her classroom readings and discussions. "What is the point of reference ... who is this person who has written what we are studying, what is their point of view and how is that perspective created?"
The Community Pride Parade will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday on California Avenue at Humboldt Street to Arlington Avenue. The Northern Nevada Pride Festival will run from noon to 7 p.m. in Wingfield Park in downtown Reno. University participants are asked to meet on Hill Street between West Liberty and Ridge Streets at 10:30 a.m. Look for University representatives with Wolf Pack signs.
"For this year's Pride, our goal is to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+community as one Pack and show that our institution welcomes and affirms the identities of all people at the University," said Precious Gbenjo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.
Just in the relatively short time since Perez attended his first Reno Pride event, much has changed. "Definitely, youth today are much more versed in the complexities of gender and sexual identities, which are now seen as more fluid and dynamic," he said. "They are growing up in an environment where multifaceted queer identities are highly visible. For those of us who grew up without shows like Will & Grace, Modern Family or Transparent, it's a stark contrast; we never imagined shows like these could exist when we were children. Nevertheless, we should not be fooled into believing that we live in an era devoid of homophobia and transfobia, which remain alive and well."
Increasingly, Hobson said, LGBTQ issues are moving into the mainstream of college coursework, which is a reflection of how these issues have grown to touch the lives of more and more people - including those who do not identify as being part of LGBTQ groups. She has written about how the most successful movements in modern American history have been unified efforts, often bringing together a host of social movements and perspectives.
"Multi-use solidarity continues to be very important in the present," she said. Hobson added that northern Nevada is an example of such a phenomenon. "Even locally, in Reno, during the time I've been here, I've seen an up-surge of different groups of people being involved in social issues, whether it's the Food Bank of Northern Nevada or refugee re-settlement through the Northern Nevada International Center," said Hobson, who has been at the University for five years. "We're seeing a whole range of different people, all becoming involved in these important local issues."
With so much happening, so quickly regarding LGBTQ issues, Perez said it's important to remember that there is still much work to be done.
"Education is key in times like these," he said. "I always have faith in young people. If you provide them with the knowledge and tools to keep our society moving forward, then it's just a matter of time before they are the ones running our country. And when our country takes two steps back, it means we have to work extra hard to take at least three steps forward. One thing LGBTQ people have never feared is hard work. We have never been handed anything over on a silver platter.
"Small changes sometimes take an unfathomable amount of work and many years to make. A setback is merely a setback. As long as we don't lose sight of our goals, then we can keep moving forward. We mobilize, we change strategies, we build alliances, we educate in innovative ways, and then we move forward."