Still photo of pride flag waving

Portraits of Pride

Meet LGBTQIA students, faculty and staff who say Pride centers and other safe spaces across the CSU have been havens for personal transformat​ion and community.


"All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential."

— Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official

If you were part of the LGBTQIA community in 1960s New York City, the possibility of being arrested for simply holding hands or dancing with someone of the same sex was a grim reality. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village stood as a safe haven for the marginalized: gays, lesbians, drag queens and transgender individuals who sought a place to call their own. Police periodically raided the bar, roughing up patrons and arresting anyone not wearing at least three pieces of gender-appropriate clothing.

But during a raid in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the community was pushed too far and fought back, sparking the Stonewall Riots​​, which are commonly credited with inspiring the gay rights movement and the celebration of Pride month in June.

Fifty years later, the LGBTQIA community has broken a lot of ground, but its members still face prejudice and adversity. The CSU is doing its part to support students by offering Pride centers or safe zones at all 23 CSU campuses. The services provided and the community that forms in these places create a sense of family and build a bridge to success both inside and outside the classroom.

To celebrate Pride month, we asked students, the faculty who lead them and a few of their allies at seven CSU campuses to share their stories of hardship and triumph.

Image of Travis-Bassett

"The LGBTQ+ community is diverse in every way. We are in all aspects of life and work across all workforces."

— Travis Bassett, Cal Maritime student, marine transportation

Image of Kiana-Medina

"The people I've met through LGBTQ+ Programs and Services have been my chosen family at Fresno State. With them, I have found a strong sense of purpose."

— Kiana Medina, Fresno State student, liberal studies

Image of Kaylee-Jones

"My favorite part about being a member of the LBGTQIA community is that everyone is so open and accepting. You're free to be whomever you want."

— Kaylee Jones, Fresno State student, criminology

Image of Raul-Maldonado

"The Queer and Transgender Resource Center at CSUSB has transformed my life. These centers are beacons of light for folks who don't live bright lives; they're symbols of hope for acceptance and equity."

— Raul Maldonado, CSU San Bernardino, Graduate Assistant, Interim President, LGBTQA Faculty, Staff, and Student Association

Image of Estevan-Parra

"I came out at 26 and it was frightening. I should have been out since the age of 13. As a student who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA community, I have the privilege of having a safe space where I can connect with others to build social capital."

— Estevan Parra, Fresno State student, master's in higher education administration

Image of Mia-Lopez

"It's human nature to want to belong, something I've struggled with the majority of my life. Being a part of a community I can identify with has built up my confidence and taught me there's nothing wrong with me. By building up my self-esteem, I've become more confident in my schoolwork."

— Mia Lopez, CSU Bakersfield student, sociology

Image of Madison-Thompson

"Having a safe space to come to when I need a break from all the stress has been comforting. The best part about being in this community is the family I've been able to build within it."

— Madison Thompson, CSU San Bernardino student, graphic design and marketing

Image of Kevin-Yang

"Being able to express myself without fear of judgment makes me happier than I've ever felt."

— Kevin Yang, Cal Poly Pomona student, psychology

Image of Samantha-DeLaCruz

"We are here, queer and not going anywhere. We not only deserve but need safe, affirming and supportive spaces to grow, remain visible, connect and merely exist. Our community is marginalized and queer students face hardships that must be addressed."

— Samantha DeLaCruz, CSU Bakersfield student, psychology and women, gender & sexuality studies, and president of Club GEN

Image of Ja'Juan-Johnson

"It's important to be an ally for those in the LGBTQ community and be able to support them through difficult times. They're always getting talked down to and for someone to be there, it can mean so much to them."

— Ja'Juan Johnson, Fresno State student, communication, and LGBTQIA ally

Image of Michael-Weimer

"I've met a lot of new people at the Pride center. I'm not very good at making friends, but being in a space where I can relate to others and just be myself really helped."

— Michael Weimer, Fresno State student, music performance

Image of Jennette-Ramirez

"Pride centers are necessary at universities because they offer safe spaces to obtain vital resources and create community and connection."

— Jennette Ramirez, Cal Poly Pomona student, gender, ethnic and multicultural studies

"I've been lucky enough to participate in two LGBTQ+ proms through the LGBTQ+ Programs and Services, which have given me the opportunity to be involved in something that provides acceptance and safety compared to regular prom. Centers like these are important because they tell students the university is accepting of them."

— Perla Ocampo, Fresno State student, criminology

Image of Perla-Ocampo

"I've been lucky enough to participate in two LGBTQ+ proms through the LGBTQ+ Programs and Services, which have given me the opportunity to be involved in something that provides acceptance and safety compared to regular prom. The LGBTQ+ community has a high suicide rate, so not many of us make it to receive a higher education. We're the lucky ones."

— Perla Ocampo, Fresno State student, criminology

Image of Deyanire-Del-Toro

"In my role, it's critical to be an active ally. As a cis-straight female, I hold a lot of privilege and plan to leverage that privilege whenever possible. My job is to bring the LGBTQ+ voices to the table, and that's what I always intend to do."

— Deyanire Del Toro, Fresno State, LGBTQ+ Programs and Gender Equity Coordinator and LGBTQIA ally

Image of Jack-Calvin

"Talking to my fellow LGBT+ community members has reminded me that I'm not alone on campus or in the world."

— Jack Calvin, Cal Maritime student, mechanical engineering

Image of Journy-Robles-Diego

"For a few years after coming out, I felt very alone. Like many LGBTQ+ individuals, I lost the support of my family and even friends. For this reason, I found myself struggling in college and it wasn't until I found the spaces on campus where I felt I belonged that I truly began to strive as a student."

— Jour​y Robles Diego, Fresno State student, counseling

Image of Caleb-Holmquist

"The CSUB LGBTQ club has given me an open and supportive community of members I can turn to. Their encouragement toward my academic and professional success, especially as a social worker, gives me all the more reason and zeal for my pursuits."

— Caleb Holmquist, CSU Bakersfield student, master's in social work

Image of Brianna-Sérráro

"Students are beginning to have​—​depending on their privilege—​more access to resources of medical transition in high school compared to when I was growing up. I think people may be more educated about transgender identities compared to 15 years ago."

— Bri Sérráno, Cal Poly Pomona, Coordinator, The Pride Center

Image of Allie-Page

"The Multicultural Alliance and Gender Equity Center at CSUB gives me a place to study, to discuss queer issues and surround myself with allies who are supportive and not discriminatory."

— Allie Page, CSU Bakersfield student, communication and art

Image of Lynn-Ha

"I'm able to live as I am without the stress of hiding who I am. I already stress about classes, so I don't need to stress about my identity and safety."

— Lynna Ha, CSU Bakersfield student, human biology

Image of Alexandro-Ochoa

"I hope one day to not have any closets to come out of, that someday being queer can be as easy as being straight."

— Alexandro Ochoa, Humboldt State student, biology

Image of Dr.-Bre-Evans-Santiago
Image of Dr.-Bre-Evans-Santiago

"I identify as queer and when I was a student, I didn't know of a place to go that supported people like me. I don't want that for our students. I want to use my time and talents to support our students as much as possible."

— Dr. Bre Evans-Santiago, CSU Bakersfield, assistant professor and co-chair for LGBTQ+Pride Affinity Group

Image of Sal-Hernandez-Jauregui

"I would love for people to know the LGBTQ+ community is always about love and acceptance. It's a community that embraces and empowers you to be your true self without worrying about judgment."

— Sal Hernandez-Jauregui, Humboldt State student, environmental biology

Image of Georgia-Valdes

"Being visibly queer is a scary and stressful time. The support we give each other is priceless and immeasurable. I feel less stressed when I know I have a community of folks who support me in my journey."

— Georgia Valdes, Cal Poly Pomona student, journalism

Image of Golden-Moeras

"My first Pride event was overwhelming, but I loved seeing so many queer girls."

— Golden Moeras, Humboldt State student, dance

Image of Jacob-Sandoval

"My identity is very important for my success as a student because I understand myself better and can contribute my perspective in the classroom and with my studies. Building community is important for students to be able to feel a belonging to their community and university campus for success in academics and life."

— Jacob Sandoval, Fresno State student, communication

Image of Sebastian-Trucios

"Attending my first Pride celebration was inspiring and comforting. I felt very comfortable with who I am and proud to be in such an accepting community."

— Sebastian Trucios, Cal Maritime student, marine engineering technology

Image of Devon-Escoto

"It was liberating to attend my first Pride celebration. It felt like I finally found a `fitting' place."

— Devon Escoto, Humboldt State student, communication and political science

Image of Michelle-Oberlies

"I feel like there's always a p​lace for me on campus where I can exist without thought of safety or judgment. There are students who come in to the center every week asking for help or advice on coming out, how to legally change their names or for a list of doctors who won't discriminate against them."

— Michelle Oberlies, CSU San Bernardino student, biochemistry, student program assistant, LGBTQA Faculty, Staff, and Student Association

Image of Angela-Dana-Tante

"You never really stop coming out. It was earth-shattering and groundbreaking. It was denial and then overwhelming understanding and happiness. It was like finding the name of something you've known for a long time."

— Angela Dana Tante, CSU Bakersfield student, computer science

Image of Darya-Samiee

"Being an ally is important to me because everyone deserves a chance to love equally. If I can use my voice to help, that's what I'll do. Love is love!"

— Darya Samiee, CSU Bakersfield student, psychology, and LGBTQIA ally

Image of Darya-Samiee
Image of Darya-Samiee

"Being an ally is important to me because everyone deserves a chance to love equally. If I can use my voice to help, that's what I'll do. Love is love!"

— Darya Samiee, CSU Bakersfield student and LGBTQIA ally, psychology

Image of Matt-Ramos

"The Pride center on my campus reassures me of my acceptance at the university. I have gained confidence, inspiration and motivation to continue my academic and athletic involvement. Thank you to my professors and those at the Pride center who contributed to my success as a student-athlete at CSUB."

— Matt Ramos, CSU Bakersfield student, human biological sciences and psychology

Image of Dana-Recio

"The Pride center is a place where I feel at home and am able to be my authentic self. At the center, I can find people who have similarities and can help with academic and personal issues."

— Dana Recio, Cal Poly Pomona student, biology

Image of Lisseth-Reyes

"The Queer and Transgender Resource Center at CSUSB has been the biggest contributor to my success on campus. It has given me the resources to become a better student and a better person in general. Centers like these make students feel empowered."

— Lisseth Reyes, CSU San Bernardino student, English

Image of Elias-Berthoud

"I approached the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and asked if I could rush. I disclosed that I am trans. The president was excited to see me rush. The brothers who accepted me talked it out with those who were unsure and assured them I am indeed a man. On December 17, 2018, I was made an active brother of Delta Sigma Phi."

— Elias Berthoud, CSU San Bernardino student, psychology

Image of Wendy-Anguiano

"I love how everyone is unapologetic about being themselves, and this community encourages that."

— Wendy Anguiano, Cal Poly Pomona student, English

Image of Shawna-Irissarri

"The challenges I've faced as an LGBTQ+ person have inspired me to become an activist and stand up for what I believe is right. It's ultimately what ended up sparking my interest in women's studies and inspired me to become a professor one day."

— Shawna Irissarri, Fresno State student, women's studies and psychology

Image of Maria-Vargas-Galvan

"I've gained a friendship support group that's really helpful. Everyone shares their stories. It's helped me open up and feel more comfortable, which has helped me overall as a student."

— Maria Vargas-Galvan, CSU San Bernardino student, English

Image of Delila-Solis

"When I came out, it felt complicated, confusing, lonely and scary. I was unsure about how I felt, how to identify and where to look for support. I didn't have visible, accessible examples of what being queer, Latinx and happy looked like."

— Delila Solis, CSU Bakersfield student, sociology

Image of Andres-Ramirez
Image of Andres-Ramirez

"What I would say to anyone afraid to come out is to just wait till you're ready. The LGBTQ+ community will be there with open arms."

— Andres Ramirez, Cal Maritime student, business administration

Image of James-White

"The Pride center gives me the motivation to not give up and to keep on being me when life gets too out of control."

— James White, Cal Poly Pomona student, biochemistry

Image of Jorge-Almaraz

"Even in our community, intersectionality is vital to tearing down oppressive systems. We must hold ourselves accountable."

— Jorge Almaraz, CSU East Bay student, theater

Image of Sam-Stewart

"The Multicultural Alliance and Gender Equity Center at CSUB helps with my success as a student by having a fantastic support network, informing us about events in the Bakersfield community and having a safe space on campus."

— Sam Stewart, CSU Bakersfield student, psychology

Image of Sidney-Taylor

"I feel like Spock from `Star Trek.' Spock is both Vulcan and human yet neither at the same time. That's how I feel about being nonbinary."

— Sidney Taylor, CSU Bakersfield student, studio art

Image of Andrew-Oca

"My hope for the future is that when I have my wedding, I won't have to call it a `gay wedding.' It'll just be a wedding, no distinction necessary."

— Andrew Oca, Cal Maritime student, mechanical engineering

Image of Bernadette-McConnell

"Attending my first Pride celebration in Long Beach was empowering. I learned so much about the origins of Pride as a riot and about the history of queerness."

— Bernadette McConnell, Humboldt State student, art history

Image of Jennifer-Metz

"As an ally, my fervent hope and prayer is that LGBTQ+ people can be exactly who they are, who they're meant to be and th​at they never have to explain their personhood to anyone. I want all LGBTQ+ persons to know they are loved, they are sacred and they are of immeasurable worth. I've said something along the lines of `It's my job as an ally to make sure you can be who you are, exactly as you are meant to be' countless times. I mean it."

— Jennifer Metz, Cal Maritime, Gay-Straight Alliance faculty advisor and LGBTQIA ally

Image of Mike-Kwon

"I am an ally because I want to support those who need it and advocate for quiet voices who are not ready."

— Mike Kwon, CSU Bakersfield student, educational counseling, and LGBTQIA ally

Image of Nicole-Vinnedge

"People in the gay community are just like everyone else and it's not a choice. We are an intersectional loving community."

— Nicole Vinnedge, CSU East Bay student, mathematics

Image of Nicole-Vinnedge
Image of Nicole-Vinnedge

"People in the gay community are just like everyone else and it's not a choice. We are an intersectional loving community."

— Nicole Vinnedge, CSU East Bay student, mathematics

Image of Mia-Acosta

"I grew up in Modesto and our LGBTQ+ community was small. Attending San Francisco Pride for the first time was incredible. I loved seeing all the diversity. It gave me a sense of pride I'd not felt before."

— Mia Acosta, Humboldt State student, psychology

Image of Zachary-Martinez

"I have acquired speaking and leadership skills through my work with the center. Being a part of the LGBT+ community gives me the understanding that I am a strong and resilient person. I am also really fabulous now."

— Zachary Martinez, Cal Poly Pomona student, psychology

Image of Tyler-Stamp

"When you actually get to know people in the community, you realize we aren't that different from everyone else."

— Tyler Stamp, Cal Poly Pomona student, computer science

Image of Shelley-Magallanes

"When I was coming to terms with my agender identity, I was super scared. But the community helped me realize my identity was valid no matter how I dress or physically present."

— Shelley Magallanes, Humboldt State student, psychology

Image of Celyna-Ramos

"Since I've been in college, I've been learning about how important mental health is and talking about stuff that bothers you. Having LGBTQ+ spaces allowed me to safely talk about issues, queer-related or not."

— Celyna Ramos, Humboldt State student, international studies

Image of Sera-Young

"Having a place where you feel welcome is key to success in any environment, but especially at universities. Being able to connect with people like you and access resources your community regularly needs is extremely useful."

— Sera Young, CSU San Bernardino student, computer science

Image of Jackie-Valenzuela

"The only person you need to come out to is yourself. The community aided me in coming out by showing me all the ways you can express yourself."

— Jackie Valenzuela, Humboldt State student, biology

Image of Raechelle-Martinez

"It was overwhelming to go to my first Pride celebration, but in a good way because I'd never been around so many supportive LGBTQ+ folks before."

— Raechelle Martinez, CSU East Bay student, hospitality/tourism

Image of Valerie-Settani
Image of Valerie-Settani

"If you think you don't know someone in the gay community, chances are you do without knowing. I'm not always wearing my rainbow sweater."

— Valerie Settani, Humboldt State student, psychology

Learn more about the ways in which the CSU serves as a lead​er on diver​sity and inclusion across its 23 campuses.