SAGA celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

Anika+Cunningham%2C+freshman+English+literature+major%2C+participates+in+tie-dying+at+the+event+hosted+by+SAGA+in+honor+of+National+Coming+Out+Day+Wednesday+evening.++

Sarah Rogers

Anika Cunningham, freshman English literature major, participates in tie-dying at the event hosted by SAGA in honor of National Coming Out Day Wednesday evening.

Sarah Rogers, Features Editor

Sarah Rogers
Anika Cunningham, freshman English literature major, participates in tie-dying at the event hosted by SAGA in honor of National Coming Out Day Wednesday evening.

Josie “JJ” Jackson spent their formative years attending Catholic school.

The senior communications major was raised by conservative and traditional parents who taught them that anything untraditional was sinful and wrong.

“I thought there has to be more than this,” Jackson said. “You can’t just tell someone what gender they are and what kinds of people they should be attracted to. So many people don’t fall into that category, and so I knew there had to be another way.”

Jackson began identifying as gender-queer shortly after they learned what it meant junior year of high school. Jackson, who used to go by Josie, changed their name when they came to college.

“I first changed my name to Jodie, which is the male version of Josie,” Jackson said. “But when I came to college I wanted something gender neutral, and that’s why I changed it to JJ.”

Jackson is a member of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, a group on campus that supports and promotes individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.

SAGA hosted an event at Eicher Barn in honor of National Coming Out Day Wednesday evening. Attendees made tie-dye shirts, played paint twister and enjoyed a wide array of food including cupcakes decorated for each gender expression.

The group made a bonfire, inviting members to drop color bombs into it, changing the grey-white smoke swirling above the flames into green, red and yellow flashes of color. Pride flags for every gender identity decorated the tables, and SAGA members took pictures with their specific pride flag draped around their shoulders.

Jackson said they were often misunderstood.

“When I was in high school we had to wear uniforms and I would often wear a tie,” Jackson said. “I would get in trouble and the principal would tell me I couldn’t wear a tie because I was a girl. I think people thought I was lesbian, but unfortunately, I am very, very straight.”

Jackson said their identity changes with their mood.

“Some days I dress in guy clothes,” Jackson said. “On those days, I feel and act more masculine. Other days, I dress very girly and act more feminine. I tend to have a more masculine personality naturally. Transgender is a blanket term, it means you can be both male and female, neither, or just one or the other. As gender-queer I am both.”

Jackson said they joined SAGA relatively recently.

“This group is pretty accepting,” Jackson said. “It’s nice for me to be able to say “I feel female today,” and they say “cool.” Or I will say “I feel male today,” and they say “cool.”  

Gabriela Aguilar said she often gets told she doesn’t look pansexual.

The junior biochemistry major said her sexual orientation is part of who she is but does not define her.

“Pansexual is basically a more liberal version of bisexual,” Aguilar said. “It means you don’t care about someone’s gender or identity or sexuality, you just like them for them. For instance, I am dating a guy right now, but I would be open to dating a female, or someone who is transgender.”

Aguilar said she used to feel alone.

“Before today, I hadn’t met anyone else on campus that was pansexual,” Aguilar said. “I didn’t even know (SAGA) existed. This community is all about being around people who are also doubting themselves 24/7 and it’s comforting to be around people who are also struggling with that same thing. This group won’t ostracize you like the rest of the world will for something that shouldn’t even matter.”

Aguilar said she was shocked at the turnout.

“I didn’t even know there were this many people on campus part of the (LGBTQ+) community,” Aguilar said. “I thought there was just going to be a couple of people here, but it’s comforting that this many people showed up and support this.”

Aguilar said the journey hasn’t been easy.

“I really wished I was completely straight,” Aguilar said. “I was in denial for a long time and finally I was just real with myself and as soon as I did that a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. To anyone who is struggling with themselves, I just want them to know that everyone is different and you are just fine the way you are.”

Cristine Pyle said they discovered they were gender-queer a little over a year ago.

The junior art and international studies major said they were lucky to figure out their sexuality sooner than others.

“I’m originally from California,” Pyle said. “California is much more progressive than Indiana. Here, people either don’t talk about it or they are ashamed to talk about it.”

Pyle said SAGA is vital.

“It seems pretty obvious,” Pyle said. “But this group is for people who are questioning or might be questioning their gender or their sexuality. This group is great and people are so supportive and accepting. You have to have a community like this when you are in the minority.”

Pyle said not everyone is so supportive.

“My mom makes dumb jokes all the time,” Pyle said. “They are crude and unnecessary and it just hurts me and my sister, who is a lesbian. It makes my sister and I feel ostracized by our family and that’s why I was so adamant about finding that support system at school, and I am so lucky that I did.”