Cameron PRIDE continues to grow

Photo by Krista Pylant
Sav Price spray paints Dr. Tom Balmer’s beard at the Cameron PRIDE booth during Cameron’s annual Street Fair Aug. 15. Jenn Castricone, the group’s advisor and Advisor of the year can be reached at 580-581-2236.

Tyla Eakins
Student Life Editor

With Cameron University’s Diversity Week soon approaching, recent five-star organization Cameron PRIDE (People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality) has been preparing for the event as one of the most diverse groups on campus.
Sophomore psychology major Matt Buck, the president of Cameron PRIDE, noted the development of PRIDE in its most recent history.
“The organization is 15 years old and has grown in just the last few years,” Buck said. “Less than a few years ago, we were literally a couple people in a classroom talking. This semester the classroom has been full of members eager to help with events planned for this year.”
After introductions, Cameron PRIDE members list the preferred pronouns they identify with. Buck said there is more than being male or female.
“We as a society, and we as English speaking people have very few ways to communicate gender neutrality with a singular person,” Buck said, “so when I refer to well, ‘they were doing this,’ it generally refers to multiple people. It [‘They’] isn’t usually referred to as a singular person. Those certain things help establish a singular pronoun for gender neutrality.”
Gender neutrality is the idea that social institutions should not use distinguishing roles based on people’s sexes with the purpose of avoiding any discrimination. However, Buck said gender is essential.
“Gender is, I would argue, extra important because we’ve grown up and we’ve been taught in science, medicine and in general society – it’s called the gender binary – that there is male and there is female and that’s all you can be.
“That isn’t entirely true, said Buck. “So the best way to describe it is to view gender as a spectrum. At one end you have male and at the other end you have female, but in the middle there’s gender-nonconformist gender, non-binary, a-gender, dual gender, bi-gender, etc. … All these different things don’t necessarily line up with ‘he’ and ‘she’.”
Buck said Cameron PRIDE is different than most groups on campus.
“We are a hybrid organization and most organizations here on campus are student-only,” Buck said, “so the only people who are allowed to join are full time students that have a good academic standing at Cameron University.
“What makes Cameron PRIDE unique is that we don’t have to comply to that rule,” Buck said. “Anyone and everyone in the community can join and that allows us to form a unique setting and really bond a lot closer compared to any other organization I’ve been involved with.”
On Oct. 12, 2015 Cameron PRIDE will hold a candlelight vigil for Matthew Sheppard, a homosexual man who fell victim to a hate crime. Buck said Sheppard’s death helped inspire The Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the federal hate crimes act to cover sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
“Oklahoma does not have any hate crime laws,” Buck said, “so I could walk out of this building be shot and have the word ‘fag’ written on my forehead and obviously that person would be prosecuted for murder but would not have the additional hate crime law set against them. Where as if they did it on the refuge or Fort Sill or any federal land, they would have that additional charge brought up against them.”
Buck said outside of campus it can be scary, but he has never been scared on campus.
“Cameron is unique in the fact that because it is a partially liberal arts school; we really do have a nice bubble here on campus to be able to be safe, to be able to be who we are and who we’re meant to be,” he said. “I have never once felt scared or insecure, nor do I know any members who have felt that way.”
Though Cameron PRIDE is bigger than ever, Buck wants to keep the close-knit group headed in the same direction.
“Last year was the first year we have even been eligible for five-star status,” he said, “and we’re trying to balance that familial atmosphere with growth and where we want to go in the campus community.”
The group also offers “padded room meetings” where students are in a relaxed environment and voice their opinions. Junior communication major and vice president of PRIDE Sav Price emphasized the openness of the concept.
“It’s where we all get together and just talk about stuff going on in our lives,” Price said. “Whether it’s like bad stuff going on or good stuff going on, it’s just a way for us to connect, socially speaking.”
If students are interested in Cameron PRIDE, LGBTQ+ advocate Amy Merchant explained how padded room meetings can provide a personal perspective about the group.
“It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions,” Merchant said. “That’s an opportunity to come and really get to the resources and really ask them [PRIDE members] one on one.”
Buck hopes the group will grow even more. Cameron PRIDE meetings are 6:30 p.m. every Friday. Students can join at any point through the semester or come to any event.


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