Over 100 graduate and professional students filled 116 Crown to capacity last Thursday night for drinks, dancing and dinner at Yale’s first Annual Pride Ball.
The Yale Office of LGBTQ Resources organized the ball as part of an effort to promote a thriving LGBTQ community among members of Yale’s graduate and professional schools. The dance comes as a culmination to a yearlong series of weekday activities dedicated to creating this culture.
“I think this was a great model of partnering between the graduate schools to really create a broader community so that people don’t feel isolated within their [graduate or professional] school,” said Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources.
Most guests stayed until the final minutes of the event, said Andrew Dowe ’08 GRD ’16, the assistant director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources.
Students felt free to express themselves and bring their partners to socialize and dance, Dowe added. Even after organizing graduate student LGBTQ events for almost three years, Dowe said he met students at the Pride Ball whom he had never encountered before.
“I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came up to me and said they were having a wonderful time, that it was the best event of the year,” said Olivia Kelada, the graduate and professional programs coordinator for the Office of LGBTQ Resources.
Trumpler said plans to expand opportunities for LGBTQ graduate and professional students began with discussions last spring. At the end of the summer, the office hired Kelada to focus specifically on programming for graduate and professional students.
“There was a drive to develop the graduate community because it did not exist in the way that the undergraduate community does,” Kelada said.
Since the fall, the office has been hosting events for graduate students every weekday from 5-7 p.m. such as socials and workshops, Kelada said. The events are intended to provide students with the chance to meet one another in a low-pressure environment on a regular basis, Dowe added.
Prior to this year, Trumpler said she wanted to reach the graduate and professional student community, but little programming existed other than monthly gay dance parties, and other programming was “hit or miss.” She noted that the monthly Friday night gay dance parties continue to be held at Gryphon’s pub in addition to the new weekday events.
“It’s been neat to provide people a chance to find out what kind of community they want to form around themselves and what works best for them,” Dowe said.
Kelada said weekday events provide students with the chance to escape their specific “bubble” within graduate and professional school programs. She added that weekday events such as Monday night relationship workshops and Wednesday night affinity groups allow LGQBTQ students to explore their identities further.
“Students may not feel comfortable being out in a more professional setting, and they’d rather keep it among their peers,” Kelada said.
LGBTQ students and allies who wish to foster relationships and friendships without feeling pressured to discuss sexual identity can attend events such as Thursday movie nights for example, Kelada added.
In addition to attending specific events, students can drop by the Office of LGBTQ Resources Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7-10 p.m. and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. to speak to peer counselors about any LGBTQ-related questions.