June is Pride Month, but Peddie also celebrated Pride in May.
That’s thanks to the efforts of Spectrum, Peddie’s gender and sexuality student affinity group, and its faculty advisor Joshua Brown. “I’m there to give the LGBTQ+ students a place to talk about things that are affecting them and invite them into discussion,” Brown said.
When Peddie went online for spring term in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, Brown knew it was critical to continue to provide that space virtually. The club remained active through the spring term, meeting twice a week. “It’s a really nice community of people,” said Sanya Desai ’22, who joined the group this year. “It’s really casual and it’s really fun and accepting.”
As the school year drew to a close, Brown felt the need to do more. “I recognized that we weren’t going to be in school during June and I felt that the LGBTQ+ community, but also the wider Peddie community, really needed some education,” they said. “This would be a way to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community while also providing people with resources.”
Hence, Peddie Pride Week. Each day, Brown sent an email to the Peddie community identifying a different figure, historical event and theme relevant to the LGBTQ+ community. They made informative videos and hosted a Q&A.
The response was heartening and positive, but also surprising. "A lot of students who knew I was in Spectrum started coming to me with questions," said Merelle Grillo ’22, future Spectrum co-leader. "It was really heartwarming to see that so many people wanted to learn about what should have been normal in the past but what has now become the new normal. It was great seeing the impact that Mx. Brown had on the community, especially in a really hard time." Brown was receiving these questions too, and it inspired them.
Thus began Brown’s currently ongoing summer seminar, inQUEERy: The Current State of Gender and Sexuality. Covering the long history of humanity’s cultural understanding of gender and sexuality, the current spectrum of sexual and gender identity and conversations with guest speakers who share expertise and personal experiences, this seminar is attended not just by current Peddie students, but by incoming 9th graders.
"It’s cool that Peddie said you might not be on Peddie campus right now, but you can jump in,” said Grillo. “These students are probably going to join us in Spectrum next year and we get to learn their names and who they are and their preferred pronouns now. It's going to be so much easier come fall. It's so cool to see all these kids who are so excited about Spectrum and coming to Peddie. I can't wait to see them right next to each other instead of on the Zoom call. The energy that they're throwing at us is amazing."
The course will culminate in an online publication where students can share their experiences and answer anonymously submitted questions for the Peddie community. It’s about starting a conversation, educating our community and elevating student voices. “I’m really looking forward to supporting the students to feel comfortable in sharing their voices as much as possible,” said Brown, “because it’s wonderful for me to be out here and visible, and I’m happy to do that, but I want the students to feel empowered to share their voices.”