by MINA TAKAHASHI
Drake alumni and the LGBTQ Alumni and Allies group hosted their third annual Rainbow Welcome event on September 17. This event was open to all students and provided information about LGBTQ student resources on campus.
Senior Luke Miller has been in Rainbow Union for four years and is the current president.
“This event is an opportunity for alumni to connect with our students,” Miller said. “It’s especially cool to see people who graduated come back. It’s really an opportunity for students to know where Drake has been and where it is now, and also find out what queer people are doing after college because there are some good environments for queer people out there and there are some bad environments. It’s interesting to hear a lot of perspectives because I know entering the workforce can be as scary as going to college for the first time.”
Hoping to find the support he lacked in high school, Miller decided to join Rainbow Union when he came to Drake.
“I decided to join initially because I came out towards the end of high school and there was very distinctly no gay-straight alliance,” Miller said. “It wasn’t a hostile environment, but there was a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation so I was curious what it would be like to be around a bunch of other people in my community.”
From the very first meeting, Miller knew he wanted to be a part of Rainbow Union. He has held a leadership position all four years.
“I instantly fell in love,” Miller said. “It’s just a really welcoming environment that shows there’s support for you on campus, which is really nice, especially that first week.”
Former faculty member Lori Blachford has been a part of the LGBTQ community at Drake for more than a decade.
“I taught at Drake for almost ten years in the journalism school, and I taught a class on diversity as well, so this is important to me,” Blachford said. “It’s also important to me as a married lesbian. I’ve been with my wife for 35 years, ten legally, and I just want people to know that we are here in Des Moines. It might not be obvious, but it’s important to be visible.”
Blachford was a resource to LGBTQ students on campus, and although no longer at Drake, continues to serve as a resource.
“I always enjoyed talking to students and answering their questions when I was on campus,” Blachford said. “Now that I’m not on campus, but I’m still in town, I don’t really want to give that up. We have some really passionate alumni who feel the same way. They want to be sure that we’re here as a resource not only for students, but also faculty. We also have a network that takes us outside Des Moines. So if we have students that are interested in an internship somewhere, we probably have alumni there who could assist them.”
Miller believes Rainbow Union is especially important for students who come from rural areas.
“There are a lot of people that come to Drake from small towns where they’re really not supported and don’t know what it looks like to have that support,” Miller said. “I think a lot of people come in feeling like they can’t be visible, which I think is unfortunate because Drake should be all about being the best version of yourself. I think a lot of people are scared to let themselves shine through, and I think this organization does a really good job of teaching people ‘hey, your best self is the most visible self.’”